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

Japan gives special privileges to US personnel in jail

Not only pressing Japan to renounce its jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. personnel, the U.S. government also requires Japan to reduce the number of U.S. servicemen held in Japanese prisons and provide them with a comfortable prison life.

Cut the number of U.S. prisoners!

The 1985 version of the declassified Command History of U.S. Forces in Japan (USFJ) states that git is USFJ policy to secure a waiver of jurisdiction in every case possibleh and details the treatment of imprisoned U.S. servicemen in Japan gif the government of Japan declines to waive jurisdiction.h

In the wake of the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japan, there was a sharp increase in the number of U.S. personnel in jail. In 1975, the number jumped to 161.

In the late 1970fs, the USFJ legal advisor sent the U.S. Minister of Justice a letter pointing out that gJapan held, at one point, approximately one-half of the US personnel incarcerated in foreign prisons worldwide.h The Command History states, gThis fact seemed to surprise the Minister, and more suspended sentences began to be issued.h In fact, the number of inmates who were U.S. personnel declined year by year after 1976. The number dropped sharply to 35 in 1985. However, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, the number of crimes involving U.S. personnel remained at the same level as before.

The Command History also reveals that the U.S. government was persuading Japan to waive its jurisdiction over drug cases ginvolving less than 100 grams of marijuanah or less than five grams of hashish.

Despite knowing that its military personnel in Japan repeatedly committed crimes, the U.S. government did not strengthen USFJ disciplinary measures but instead urged Japan to hold down the number of imprisoned U.S. personnel and to renounce its judicial power.

Eating steak

In May 2008, Yamazaki Masanori went to Yokosuka Prison (Kanagawa Pref.) to see U.S. sailor William Reese who killed Yamazakifs wife. Yamazaki saw that Reese put on weight and looked well.

Prisoners who are U.S. personnel are separated from Japanese or other foreign prisoners and receive special meals like steak dinners with dessert included. JCP member of House of Councilors Inoue Satoshi exposed this privileged treatment in the Diet in May 2008.

The Ministry of Justice Criminal Affairs Bureau in 1972 drew up a classified document on the practice of criminal jurisdiction over USFJ members. According to the document, Japanese authorities take special care of U.S. personnel in Japanese jails, taking into account differences in language, culture, and food preferences. The document cites specific measures secretly agreed on by the Joint Committee for Implementation of Article 17 of the SOFA as the reason for the special care. However, such care has nothing to do with SOFA Article 17 stipulating which government has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction when U.S. personnel commit crimes.

At Yokosuka Prison, U.S. detainees receive preferential treatment in regard to showers and air-conditioning equipment. The abovementioned Command History highly evaluates Yokosuka Prison by stating, gThe Yokosuka facility provides conditions of confinement which are equal to, or exceed conditions at similar US institutions.h

Thus, going beyond the interpretation of not only the SOFA but also any of secret agreements, the Japanese government has given special consideration to all USFJ prisoners.

(To be continued)

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