Japan exploring special measures to obtain civil damages from the U.S. in the 2016 murder of an Okinawan woman

June 7, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo


It was announced June 6 that Japan and the U.S. are discussing a proposal to solve an ongoing issue where the U.S. has refused to pay damages to the surviving family of the woman who was raped and murdered by a civilian contractor working on a U.S. military base in 2016.

The proposal concerns a special measure where the U.S. would pay damages to the family, and if the amount does not satisfy what is decided in the final court decision, Japan will cover the remainder as relief money.

The first and foremost issue regarding the payment of damages has to do with the defendant, who is currently appealing a life sentence.

There is a disagreement between Japan and the U.S. on the interpretation of one of the clauses in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and while progress has been slow, the plan is to put the decision in the hands of the leaders at Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

In the lawsuit, the family of the victim has demanded financial compensation as outlined in SOFA, however the U.S. government is maintain that since the defendant was hired by a private company contracted by the U.S. military, he was an “indirect hire,” and thus outside the scope of what qualifies for financial compensation.

Meanwhile, Japan argues that even an indirect hire is within scope, creating a discrepancy between the two sides.

Therefore, Japan is exploring a way to seek damages outside of the framework of SOFA, for which they are demanding the U.S. pay.

In cases involving the U.S. military outside of official military business, there is a system for the payment of civil damages outlined in the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) that says in cases where the U.S. is required to pay civil damages but, “where payment by the US Government did not satisfy the full amount awarded by a final court judgment,” the Japanese government will make a payment to cover the difference.

However, if the U.S. refuses to pay outright, Japan is unable to cover the difference. Japan is discussing a proposal to use a similar system to make the U.S. pay, and to then cover any amount deemed insufficient.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera received a request from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) coalition at the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly demanding quick payment of civil damages, to which he responded, stressing, “This case requires an agreement from the U.S.” Additionally, he said that he would be approaching U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty and that he, “do everything in my power to obtain their cooperation.”


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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