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Court orders state compensation to Japanese war orphans left in China

The Kobe District Court on December 1 ordered the government to compensate Japanese war orphans left behind in China for neglecting to help them return to Japan as early as possible and to support them after their return so that they become able to support themselves.

It is the first ruling holding the state responsible among 15 lawsuits filed at district courts across the country by about 2,200 plaintiffs, or more than 80 percent of all former war-displaced orphans who later resettled in Japan.

These displaced Japanese citizens, who are now in their mid-60s, returned to Japan several decades after they had been left behind as infants and children in northeast China at the end of WW II. Unable to speak Japanese and for other reasons, they have had many difficulties in finding jobs and supporting themselves.

The ruling ordered the government to pay a total of 468.6 million yen to 61 out of 65 plaintiffs. It dismissed four plaintiffs' demands on the grounds that the 20-year statute of limitations had expired.

The court severely criticized the pre-war Japanese policy of abandoning its people in China in the war of aggression by describing it as "heartless policy remarkably making light of its own citizens' lives."

It acknowledged that the government measures to require the abandoned citizens to submit identification references of their family members living in Japan before their return is an "illegal administrative action aimed at restraining their return."

Referring to the five-year benefits that the government is providing for the victims abducted by North Korea, the ruling stressed that relief measures for the war orphans are "extremely poor" since the livelihood protection assistance they are receiving ends after only one year.
- Akahata, December 2, 2006

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