Medoruma’s arrest: suppression of the opposition movement must not be tolerated

April 4, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

The detention of Shun Medoruma was an act of illegitimate confinement on the part of the United States military with the aim of using brute force to suppress freedom of thought, belief, and expression. We must not tolerate pressure that antagonizes Okinawan opposition to the new base construction. The perpetrators of this illegitimate act must realize that resistance from Okinawan society will only grow stronger.

Akutagawa Prize-winning author Shun Medoruma, age 55, was released after being arrested following capture in the ocean near Camp Schwab for allegedly having entered into the U.S. military-controlled area of the waters. He was arrested at the 11th Region Headquarters of the Japan Coast Guard on suspicion of having violated the Special Criminal Law, a law based on the U.S.-Japan security treaty. Thirty-four hours passed from the time of his capture by a U.S. military guard until the time of his release.

Medoruma was engaging in protest at sea to oppose the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, Nago. He serves as a symbol of Okinawan opposition to the new base.

His release was a matter of course, yet it hardly puts an end to the incident.

While Medoruma and his colleagues were engaging in their usual protest activities at sea, several U.S. security guards were filming them from land. This was clearly unusual. The guard who captured Medoruma is said to have called out Medoruma’s real name during the arrest. There is a high likelihood that Medoruma was targeted as an individual.

Furthermore, Medoruma was held captive inside Camp Schwab for eight hours before being turned over to the Japan Coast Guard. He was not allowed to see a lawyer during that time. This was a severe violation of human rights.

Medoruma’s lawyer criticized the U.S. military and involved investigation agencies for their behavior, saying, “This is illegitimate suppression of the protest movement. [Medoruma’s] lengthy detainment constitutes illegal confinement.”

After Medoruma’s capture, his lawyer contacted the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the Okinawa prefectural police, and the Coast Guard regarding his whereabouts, but could not obtain a clear response. It is highly abnormal that Japanese government agencies are unable to confirm the location and status of one of their own citizens who has been robbed of his freedom inside a U.S. base, outside the purview of Japanese sovereignty. As a result, the Japanese government can be seen as complicit in the loss of sovereignty and human rights violation signified by Medoruma’s lengthy detainment.

After the recent court settlement between Okinawa and the national government, the government lost the authority to continue construction on the new base. Despite the suspension of construction, the U.S. and Japanese governments have maintained the “temporary restricted area” established in the bay to facilitate construction.

The legal legitimacy of keeping this area of the bay off-limits is questionable to begin with. There is no justification for arresting a Japanese citizen with no intention of trespassing inside the U.S. base or obstructing base operations, and who has caused no real damage to either Japan or the United States. Perhaps the U.S. military’s act of force was the result of irritation at the suspension of construction of the new base.

We are obligated to question this act by the U.S. and Japanese governments. We must clarify the legal issues involved, and put a stop to illegitimate security measures implemented with the political aim of suppressing civic resistance to the new base.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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