Anger as court
rejects Allied POWs compensation suit
November 26, 1998
TOKYO (CNN) -- A Tokyo court on Thursday ruled against
a demand for compensation by a group of soldiers and
civilians from several countries held prisoner in Japan
during World War II.
The lawsuit was filed three years ago on behalf of
25,000 members of veterans organizations from Britain, the
United States, Australia and New Zealand. The decision was
the first handed down in Japan in a legal suit brought by
former World War II POWs' from Allied countries.
They demanded $22,000 each in compensation for what they claimed
were violations of their rights under international treaties and
conventions on the treatment of war prisoners.
The court ruled that the issue was resolved in 1951 with the
signing of the San Francisco peace treaty.
Presiding judge Shigeki Inoue said in his verdict that because
of the 1951 treaty, individuals or groups could not seek
compensation from the government. He said compensation issues must
be dealt with on the government-to-government level.
Japan broke the rules
Japan forced POWs to work in shipyards, mines and jungles in
violation of international law. They were also beaten and some were
The POWs' death rate at the Japanese camps was 27 percent,
compared to a 4-percent rate at allied camps.
It was not immediately clear if the former POWs would appeal
"I spit on the doorstep of the Diet (Japanese parliament).
There's no justice in this country," British former POW Arthur
Titherington said minutes after the ruling.
Representatives of the POWs who traveled to Tokyo from around
the world to hear the judgment vowed to fight on.
"We will review and respond to this case. It is not unexpected.
We will fight on," said Martin Day, one of the former detainees.
If the ruling had gone in favor of the POWs it would have cost
Japan about $450 million in compensation.
Thousands used as slaves
Estimates by supporters and former prisoners of the number of
POWs and civilian internees held by the Japanese during World War
Two range from 60,000 to 120,000 Dutch, 120,000 to 150,000 British,
about 15,000 Americans and 13,000 New Zealanders, as well as
thousands of Australians.
Japan has held that it is not liable for compensation because
all World War Two claims were settled in 1951 under the San
Francisco peace agreements.
Dutch POWs launched a separate lawsuit in 1994, demanding the
same redress from Japan. The court is scheduled to rule on their
case next Monday.
Chinese and Korean victims, including women forced into sexual
slavery and men forced into slave labor, have also filed lawsuits
demanding official apologies and compensation.
In one landmark ruling this April, a Japanese district court
ordered the government to pay compensation to three Korean women
who were forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese military
during the war, although it rejected their demands for an official
There are about 30 compensation cases before Japanese courts,
but all past rulings involving POWs have gone against the
Hopes of a favorable ruling were high among the POWs after an
official apology was issued by Japan to the South Korean people
In his country's strongest statement to date, Japanese Prime
Minister Keizo Obuchi apologized to the South Korean people for 35
years of brutal colonial rule, during a state visit by South Korean
President Kim Dae-jung.
It was the first written apology ever issued to an individual
country by Japan for its actions before and during World War Two