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50 years of Japan-US Alliance
SOFA, the Darkness ? Part V

Priority given to military operations over any sense of justice

gJapan did enter into an informal agreement that it would waive its primary right to exercise jurisdiction except in cases of especial importancef to Japan, and Japan has faithfully carried out this understanding.h This is a quote from gUnited States Forces in Japan: A Bilateral Agreementh co-written by Dale Sonnenberg and other authors.

Very short notification period given to Japan

As gprocedures used within Japan to maximize US jurisdiction,h this article touches on the following issues: a) non-indictments; b) US investigation of crimes involving alleged US perpetrators; c) lapse of time to provide a notice of intent to indict; and d) if necessary, waivers of cases already under indictment.

Category b) indicates that the U.S. side takes control of the investigation of crimes involving its servicemen and restricts Japanfs investigation. In 2008, U.S. military police transported two family members of military personnel from the spot where they had allegedly committed theft to a U.S. base. This case has raised the question of how Article 17 of the SOFA should be interpreted.

What does category c) suggest?

The Japan-U.S. joint committeefs 1953 gagreed official minutesh regarding Article 17 of the SOFA designates that if Japan fails to advice the U.S. side within a set period of time whether it will exercise its jurisdiction over the crimes committed by U.S. military personnel, the U.S. can exercise such right. The periods or time set for Japan are very short, for instance: five days (revised to ten days in 1960) after the date of original notification of alleged offense for ones gpunishable under Japanese law by confinement for 6 months or lessh such as trespass, assault, and driving while drunk; and 20 days after date of original notification of alleged offences gpunishable under Japanese law by confinement for more than 6 months.h

gThis arrangement was imposed in order to ensure the implementation of the secret agreement in which Japan renounces its jurisdiction,h said journalist Yoshida Toshihiro in his recent book titled gSecret pacts - Japan-U.S. SOFA and crimes committed by U.S. military personnel.h

Guarantee military operations

The secret document compiled by the Justice Ministry Criminal Affairs Bureau in 1972 blatantly argues that the arrangement was established based on the recognition that the delay in determining how to treat members of the military would interfere with U.S. military operations.

Yoshida says, gCrimes, if committed by civilians, have no time restriction, other than the statute of limitation, which prohibits investigation, indictment, or lawsuit after a certain set time period. The arrangement clearly gives first priority to the military.h

(To be continued)


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