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In Japan, US soldiers commit crimes with complete impunity

Translated Friday 16 June 2017, by Anne Sanders

Only 16.9% of breaches of the criminal code committed by American military personnel in Japan last year were brought to court.

80% of crimes or accidents committed by the American military are never followed up or lead to convictions.

Toru Yamanaka/AFP

They incur the anger of the Japanese population but remain unpunished. A year ago, a total of 65,000 people gathered in Naha, the capital of Okinawa, to protest about the rape and murder of a young Japanese girl by a former American marine. In this archipelago, where the memory remains raw of the rape of a girl of twelve by three US soldiers, the demonstration led to a resolution requesting the departure of the marines stationed on the island. It also requests the revision of the agreement concluded between Washington and Tokyo whereby Japanese courts may not pass judgement on offenders if the offence takes place within the military bases. In addition, it requests that the Futenma airbase be closed down.

Recent data published by the Japanese Committee for Peace confirms that only 16.9% of breaches of the criminal code committed by American military personnel last year were brought to court. Of these, 83.1% did not lead to a conviction. To give an example, of the 178 car accidents leading to injuries or death which were caused by US soldiers, only 17 were brought to court. Over the last ten years, the rate of conviction was even less than 20%. This means that 80% of crimes or accidents committed by these soldiers remain unpunished.

5,800 crimes since 1972

In Okinawa, there have been 5,800 crimes committed by the American military since the reversion of the archipelago to Japan in 1972. According to the local police, 571 of these transgressions involving Americans fall into the category of “serious crimes”. Two thirds of the 47,000 American soldiers based in Japan are stationed in Okinawa. Although they represent 4.2% of the population of Okinawa, they are responsible for 75% of crimes committed. Despite a clear decrease, the number of rapes and murders remain the highest of any part of the globe in which the United States have military bases. The soldiers’ mission in Japan is to pursue a strategy of containment with regard to China and monitoring of North Korea. Japan remains an essential base in the region for the United States.

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