Plaintiff wins lawsuit over death of SDF member from Okinawa

Plaintiff wins lawsuit over death of SDF member from Okinawa

On March 29, in front of the Sapporo District Court in the Chuo Ward of Sapporo, the plaintiff attorneys and family members (front row) of the deceased soldier told their supporters that they had won the lawsuit.

March 30, 2013 Tatsuya Ikeda of Ryukyu Shimpo

The plaintiffs have won approximately 65 million yen in a lawsuit concerning the death of 20 year-old Eikichi Shimabukuro, who was killed in 2006 in hand-to-hand combat training at Camp Makomanai in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

The Sapporo District Court ruled on the case on March 29. The plaintiffs, the parents of Shimabukuro, a private first-class in the Self Defense Force and originally from Okinawa, claimed about 92 million yen from the government. Presiding Judge Shunichi Ishibashi agreed that the instructor overseeing the training had failed in his duty to provide proper supervision.

Outline of the ruling.

The ruling acknowledged the instructor’s culpability, saying, “The instructor threw Shimabukuro, who was at a lower level of the scale in terms of his ability to cope with the throw, despite being aware of the possible danger that Shimabukuro could hit his head on the ground.”

At the same time, the judge dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for hazing, saying, “It would seem that Shimabukuro suffered injuries during training and medical treatment.” Shimabukuro’s parents suspect that the multiple injuries over his body were the result of bullying or hazing that exceeded the bounds of regular training.

With regard to hand to hand combat, the judge said, “It is a combat technique designed to hurt or kill someone. There is inherent risk involved in such activities.”

The plaintiff’s attorneys saw the ruling as groundbreaking, saying, “It was the first time that a court has made a ruling like this on such training.”

Following the ruling, Shimabukuro’s father, Tsutomu, said, “Although the case had been dragged into the shadows, through this trial I think that we have managed to make my son’s existence even more significant.”

A representative of the Ministry of Defense said, “In some respects we were unable to get the presiding judge to understand the situation. After carefully going through the ruling, we will talk to the institutions concerned, and deal with the situation.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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