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Secret Pact to Protect USFJ Personnel That Commit Crimes?

I need to further research the article below (considering the source of information, the Akahata Shimbun) and provide my analysis. Please feel free to comment!

[Akata Shimbun] It has been revealed that Japan and the U.S. concluded a secret treaty that specifies Japan’s waiver of primary jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. soldiers off duty in cases deemed of “no special importance.” A paper issued in 2001 by persons including a USFJ legal advisor notes that Japan continues to faithfully observe the pact.

It has become known through U.S. government declassified documents and other means that the two countries concluded the secret accord when the administrative agreement governing the legal status of U.S. troops in Japan was revised (in 1953). But it has been found for the first time that the agreement is still effective.

The paper, titled “An agreement on the status of foreign troops in Japan,” was written jointly by Lieutenant Colonel Dale Sonnenberg, chief of international law at the office of the judge advocate at U.S. Forces Japan, and Donald A. Timm, special advisor to the Judge Advocate Headquarters. The paper is in The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces, published by Oxford University in Britain in 2001.

The paper specifies the existence of the secret pact, noting: “Japan has concluded an unofficial agreement under which it abandons its primary right to exercise jurisdiction, excluding cases of ‘special importance.’ The paper emphasizes that the pact is still effective, saying: “Japan has been faithful in upholding this agreement.”

The paper also points out that the U.S. policy goal is to exercise its jurisdiction over crimes by U.S. service members overseas to the maximum extent. To that end, the paper says that various measures have been
taken in Japan, such as:

  1. having Japan drop cases;
  2. giving Japan no time for it to notify (the U.S.) of its intent to bring an accusation; and
  3. having Japan abandon jurisdiction over cases under indictment.

The paper reveals that the U.S. military is trying to insulate U.S. service members who commit crimes from trials in Japan by every possible means.

It has also been learned that the Justice Ministry issued a notice that included the same provisions as those in the Japan-U.S. secret pact in 1953. Asked by Akahata about the validity of the notice at the present point of time, the Justice Ministry did not rule it out, just saying: “We have no comment.”

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