Naha District Court rules Japanese government not liable for war acts committed under the Meiji constitution

January 24, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo

On January 23, a judge at the Naha District Court made a ruling in a lawsuit calling for an apology by the national government and 11 million yen per plaintiff in damages instituted by 44 plaintiffs comprising Okinawan survivors of battle in the south sea islands of Saipan and Tinian and in the Philippines, and their family members.

Judge Junko Kenmotsu dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims on the grounds that the current government owes no responsibility for unlawful acts because during wartime the Meiji constitution was in effect and the State Redress Act had not yet been enacted.

The judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims in full, not recognizing the government’s responsibility to compensate civilian victims of the “south seas” battles.

The plaintiffs intend to appeal the ruling.



The ruling dismisses the plaintiffs’ claims by applying the “doctrine of state non-liability,” which maintains that the state bears no duty to compensate for the acts of war and harm perpetrated by the Japanese military which the plaintiffs assert were unlawful, on the grounds that the state bears no duty under the Civil Code for unlawful acts carried out prior to the enactment of the State Redress Act.



The ruling did recognize that the plaintiffs suffered damage during the war, such as being subjected to gunfire and suffering psychological ailments caused by their war experience.

It then determined that any compensation for such damage is up to the government’s discretion, and that this does not violate the principle of equality under the law because there is no unjust discrimination with respect to implementation of the Act on Relief of War Victims and Survivors.

The ruling judged the plaintiff’s argument that the government should be held liable for legislative action to lack grounds.

The ruling further did not accept the plaintiffs’ argument based on “responsibility for danger under public laws” with respect to the government’s putting civilians in unusual danger through acts of war, stating that the argument’s basis is “an abstract concept lacking legal grounds.”



Shigeru Zukeyama, head of the group of lawyers representing the plaintiffs, criticized the ruling, saying, “The court’s refusal to address the plaintiffs’ claims is highly insincere and irresponsible.”



(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)



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