Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tokyo Air Raid Lawsuit

"The Tokyo District Court on Monday dismissed a group damages lawsuit filed against the central government by civilian victims of a U.S. bombing raid that devastated the capital during World War II.

"The 131 plaintiffs either were injured or lost relatives in the Great Tokyo Air Raid of March 10, 1945, which left an estimated 100,000 people dead. They sought an apology and compensation for their suffering.

"It was the first group lawsuit filed by civilian victims of U.S. air raids on Japan.

"The outcome hinged on whether the court accepts the government's argument that suffering resulting from the war had to be "equally endured" by the population.

"In its ruling Monday, the court said the feelings of the plaintiffs, who had suffered immeasurably, were understandable, but that the government was not legally obliged to extend relief.

"The court said the issue must be resolved through legislation.

"The plaintiffs sought 1.44 billion yen in total compensation, or 11 million yen each, for suffering that they said continued long after the war.

"Of the 131 plaintiffs, 124 were survivors of the firebombings that blanketed densely populated areas in Koto Ward and elsewhere. Eighty-four were younger than 15 at the time; 55 were orphaned.

"They said while the government provided compensation and other relief to those who served in the military and their bereaved families, it did nothing to help civilian victims of the war.

"The group also demanded an apology on grounds the government failed to thoroughly investigate the casualties and those left missing, or to recognize their suffering by building a memorial.

"They said it should be made clear that the government bore responsibility for starting the war.

"In arguing for the case to be dismissed, the government cited a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that rejected similar claims by two women seriously injured in air raids on Nagoya in 1945.

"The top court's second petty bench at that time said war damage or sacrifice had to be equally endured by the people in an emergency situation where the state's survival was at stake.

"The Tokyo plaintiffs had countered that their compensation claims were for the government's failure to extend relief after the war, not for direct damage from the war.

"They also said the government had selectively assisted certain groups of civilians, including those who had been repatriated from abroad.

"The suit was filed first in March 2007 by 112 people, one of whom later withdrew. Twenty more joined the suit a year later.

"In December 2008, 18 people similarly sued the government in relation to the Osaka air raid of March 1945.

"The welfare ministry declined to comment. The Tokyo group said it will file an appeal."

By Asahi Shimbun (12/15/2009), Link to article (last visited 12/16/2009)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Double Standard on International Child Abduction?

"The Japanese consulate general in Shanghai renewed the passports of two girls without permission from their Japanese mother in violation of the Passport Law, after their Chinese father took them to China in the wake of a marriage breakup, it has been learned.

"The consulate general renewed the passports of the girls, now aged 18 and 17, in 2004, despite their mother's repeated requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to renew the passports.

"As a result of the consulate general's actions, the girls remained in China for five more years, and the situation was not resolved until the father came to Japan in September this year and was arrested on suspicion of child abduction.

""As a result of the government's mistake, I had to wait five years for the return of my daughters," the children's mother, who is in her 40s, said. "I want the government to move actively to protect the rights of children."

"Passports for minors are valid for five years. Passport Law regulations state that permission must be obtained from a person who has custody of the children for the passports to be issued.

"Representatives of the woman said that she and the Chinese man, 55-year-old Qin Weijie, married in 1988 and lived in Tokyo, but she left due to domestic violence by Qin. In June 1999, Qin met his daughters as they were traveling to school near the home to which his wife had moved, and he took them to China.

"Qin and his wife divorced in 2000, and she was granted custody of the children. However, as she didn't know where they were, she repeatedly asked the Foreign Ministry not to renew their passports. She also filed a criminal complaint against Qin accusing him of abducting the children and taking them overseas. However, the consulate general renewed the passports in January 2004.

"About five years later, when the deadline for renewing the passports of the children was again approaching, Qin contacted his former wife asking her to sign a consent form for renewal, but she said she wanted to meet them directly and confirm what they wanted to do, so the two came to Japan in January.

"Qin was arrested after entering Japan in September this year at Narita Airport, trying to take his elder daughter, who wanted to remain in Japan, back with him. His former wife said the eldest daughter was suffering from an eating disorder and panic attacks, due in part to violent behavior from Qin.

"On Thursday, Qin was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for three years, after going on trial facing international abduction and other charges. In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Manabu Kato criticized Qin's actions, saying, "His act of taking the children away without notice deserves criticism," but noted, "At the time Qin also held custody of the children." Commenting on the wife's position, the judge stated: "It is impossible to imagine the mental anguish of being separated for such a long time from the children she loved."

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Japanese Nationals Overseas Safety Division admitted the mistake in renewing the passports without consent, but said it could not provide detailed background information on individual cases."

By Mainichi Shimbun (12/4/2009), Link to article (last visited 12/4/2009)

*Savoie case