Okinawa Governor to make speech at UN as step to stop human rights violations

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga will make speech at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland on September 21 and 22.

It will be the first time a prefectural governor from Japan has taken the stage. The speech is an opportunity for the governor to reveal the crises in Okinawa, where locals’ human rights have been violated by the presence of the U.S. military bases, and oppressive treatment by the Japanese and U.S. governments.

Okinawan people continue to suffer social injustice 70 years after the end of the World War II.

The governor, who represents the will of the people, will ask the international community to support Okinawa as it tries to rectify an absurd situation, in which Japan and US leaders have tried to force through a new military base despite untenable public opposition. The governor is heading to the UN with unflagging resolve. Okinawan people expect that the governor’s speech will be a foundation to change the future of Okinawa.

Historical inevitability

The governments of Japan and the United States have made Okinawa host to a major burden of military bases for 70 years following the war. It will be an extremely important step toward affirming Okinawa’s right to self-determination when the governor and delegation from Okinawa reveal the inhumanity of the situation to the world.

On February 1, 1962, the legislature of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands passed a resolution seeking to unanimously return the administrative rights over Okinawa from the United States to Japan. The resolution reads: We request that members of the United Nations draw attention to the fact that unjust domination has occurred in the Japanese territory against the will of the residents.

After the war, Japan gave Okinawa to the United States. Okinawan people were placed under the rule of the U.S. forces. The representative body of the people at the time sharply condemned colonial-style domination by the United States and asked the international community to help recover Okinawa’s sovereignty.

It was Josei Onaga, a member of the Okinawa Liberal Democratic Party and the father of Governor Takeshi Onaga, who read the bipartisan resolution as a representative of its initiators.

The resolution referred to the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which was adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in 1960, and pointed out the illegality of colonial rule.

The so-called 2.1 resolution, which aimed to protect the autonomy and human rights of Okinawan people, reflected universal values that remain as important as ever. The members of the legislature fought for survival in a make-or-break battle against the oppressive rule of the U.S. military. The resolution was sent to 104 countries. International support added power to the movement seeking to return the administrative rights over Okinawa to Japan.

Despite residents’ strenuous appeal, basic human rights are still being undermined by the heavy impact of the U.S. bases. More than five decades since the reversion, Onaga, who leads the ‘All-Okinawa’ movement against plans for a new military base in Nago, will make a momentous visit to the UN. It is considered here to be a “historical necessity” that Onaga refer to Okinawa’s recent past in stressing the importance of protecting the human rights of Okinawan people.

It is important for the global community to know how the excessive burden of U.S. bases remaining in Okinawa and the new base construction in Henoko, Nago, hurt the human rights and dignity of Okinawan people. We would like governor Onaga to confidently highlight the tyrannical nature of the U.S. and Japan’s past and present dealings with Okinawa, which continues to suffer from their colonial attitude.

End double standards and devaluing of Okinawan lives

The UN Human Rights Council reviews human-rights issues in UN-signatory countries regularly and systematically, urging those violating human rights to swiftly improve the situation. It is one of the main organizations in the UN, and on a par with the Security Council.

The U.S. military bases, which were built on land forcibly seized from the Okinawan people after the Battle of Okinawa, have violated Okinawa’s right to self-determination. Okinawan people’s rights are rooted in their history, and inherent to their culture. Without consent from Ryukyuan or Okinawan people, whose right to self-determination was guaranteed under international law long before the island chain became part of Japan, the governments of Japan and the United States have been occupying the land and sea that Okinawan people inherited from their ancestors.

Even though over 70 percent of Okinawan people oppose the new base construction in Henoko, the Japanese and U.S. governments are continuing to force through the project. Without a doubt, this represents a continued violation of human rights in Okinawa, as well as Okinawa’s right to self-determination.

After Okinawa’s return to Japanese sovereignty, about three rape cases, involving U.S. military servicemen, have occurred on average per year. U.S. military aircraft crashes continue too. The military operates the bases under conditions that would not be allowable to those living in the United States or the main island of Japan. It is unacceptable to let this double standard continue, as it an unfair treatment of the “Uchinanchu” or Okinawan people and it discriminates against their lives.

As intellectuals all around the world attest, democratic justice sides with Okinawa. In the wake of Onaga’s speech at the UN, we would like to boost awareness of Okinawan people’s call to have their right to self-determination recognized.

(English translation by T&CT)

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