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HOME  > Past issues  > 2023 April 26 - May 9  > None of US soldiers who committed crimes in Japan 'while on duty' charged in Japanese courts
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2023 April 26 - May 9 [US FORCES]

None of US soldiers who committed crimes in Japan 'while on duty' charged in Japanese courts

April 27, 2023

Over the past nine years, 787 U.S. military personnel or U.S. civilian employees who committed crimes "while on duty" in Japan have been exempted from prosecution. None of their cases were brought to justice in Japan.

This was revealed by the Ministry of Justice in response to questioning by Japanese Communist Party Dietmember Yamazoe Taku at an Upper House Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on April 25.

Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the U.S. authorities have the primary jurisdiction over crimes committed in Japan by U.S. servicepersons.

Yamazoe asked if Japan has ever staked a claim to its jurisdiction before. A Justice Ministry official answered, "Never."

Referring to "certificates of official duty" the U.S. military issues to its personnel, Yamazoe pointed out that as long as the U.S. military asserts that "on-duty" personnel caused a crime, Japan cannot exercise jurisdiction over the case. The ministry official said, "But still, Japan can disprove the U.S. assertions."

Yamazoe noted that if Japan wants to present evidence in rebuttal, the Japanese side must notify the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee on the SOFA of that intention "within ten days" after a crime is committed. He said, "It is unreasonable for the U.S. side to rush the Japanese police into conducting superficial investigations. The SOFA should be revised so that the Japanese authorities can comprehensively make a judgement on whether to indict based on all the evidence."

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