Japan’s largest legal experts group releases statement about revising SOFA

March 13, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

On March 12, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations held a press conference in Tokyo. The association released a statement about the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement (SOFA). It is the first time the association has released a statement about revising the agreement. In the statement, they indicated their opposition to the landfill construction of Henoko in Nago to build a new base to replace U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station. They stated, “We will not allow it.” The association called for environmental rules and for the handing over of suspected criminals for indictment.

The statement demanded that the U.S. and Japanese governments revise the following subjects: (1) providing and returning the facilities and areas; (2) application of Japanese laws and rules; (3) environmental protection; (4) vessels and aircraft operated by, for, or under the control of the United States; (5) air traffic; (6) criminal responsibility; (7) civil liability.

The association is seeking to set up rules for environmental protection and to define the obligation of U.S. forces to restore land to its original state when pollution occurs on a base. Referring to moving Futenma Air Station to Henoko, they pointed out that landfilling in Oura Bay in Henoko which has much biodiversity “is nothing but an act against god and is unforgivable.”

They demand that both governments should allow Japan to arrest suspects in the U.S. military and civilian personnel in criminal cases before indictments. In addition, they claimed the suspects should be regarded as being off-duty when evidence is inadequate to suggest they are on-duty.

They also demand the Japanese government should provide full compensation for damages in civil cases committed by off-duty U.S. personnel.

Tsutomu Arakaki is a member of a special research group for U.S. military base issues in the Human Rights Committee of the association and has detailed knowledge of the agreement. He said, “It is important that the largest group of law professionals clarifies legal opinions on the agreement. It would have a significant impact on negotiations between Japan and the United States.”

(English translation by T&CT and Lima Tokumori)

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