From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 14:08:16 -0700
Seq: 46

Ex-POWs step up reparation campaign 
June 30, 2000

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Former U.S. prisoners of war forced
into slave labor for private Japanese companies during World War
II are accelerating their campaign to seek compensation from the
companies that profited from their work.

But Japan has rejected the demand, saying the issue was settled
under an international treaty ratified by the United States 50 years
ago. Tokyo says it is ready to fight any legal action mounted by
the POWs.

Moves to seek reparations from Japanese companies over wartime
forced labor stem from last July's passage of a California statute
allowing former POWs held by Nazi Germany, Japan and their
allies to file World War II damages suits until 2010.

Based on that law, some 30 lawsuits have already been filed in
California courts by former POWs against Japanese companies.

The Center for Internee Rights, a group representing the POWs,
has recently launched a political campaign calling on 10 other U.S.
states to introduce measures allowing similar legal action.

The campaign led to the Rhode Island Senate passing a bill that
would allow such action. Moves to seek wartime reparation from
Japan have also appeared in West Virginia, Nebraska and

"Now I, along with many of my former POW friends, are seeking
justice from the Japanese companies that placed us into servitude,"
Lester Tenney, a former POW in Japan, said at a Senate Judiciary
Committee hearing held Wednesday to examine historical and legal
issues on forced labor in Japan.

Tenney, author of the 1995 book "My Hitch in Hell," was one of
some 12,000 U.S. servicemen taken captive on the Bataan
Peninsula of the Philippines when the country fell to the Imperial
Japanese Army in April 1942.

At the hearing, Tenney spoke of the hardships he suffered at the
Miike coal mine in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, owned by Mitsui
Mining Co.

"I was forced to shovel coal 12 hours a day, 28 days a month for
over two years," he said. "The reward I received for this hard
labor was beatings by the civilian workers in the mine.

"This is not a tirade against Japan as a nation. I have no animosity
toward the Japanese people. However, I am entitled to
compensation from the Japanese company that enslaved me."

Tokyo has dismissed the compensation demand by former POWs
as an issue settled under the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty.

Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shunji Yanai told a news
conference Tuesday, "Japan has no option but to counter the
campaign in court." The remarks indicate Japan will fully support
Japanese firms named by the POWs in damages lawsuits.

About 50,000 U.S. servicemen were taken prisoner during World
War II. About half of them were sent to Japan, where many of
them were forced to perform heavy labor for Japanese companies.

At the end of the war, however, the U.S. failed to pursue the
forced labor issue as it was apparently preoccupied with helping
rebuild Japan.

The San Francisco treaty waived the victims' rights to seek
compensation from Japan. It also included an agreement by Japan
not to make any claim to assets that the U.S. confiscated from
Japanese companies shortly after the end of the war.

"The Japanese side has something to say to the U.S. regarding the
compensation issue. Reopening that lid will result in grave
consequences," Yanai said, apparently threatening to revive the
issue of seized Japanese assets.

The U.S. government, basically supporting Tokyo's position,
remains cool to the former POWs' moves to demand reparation
from Japan.

"It is clear from the language of the 1951 peace treaty that the
United States intended to waive its claims and those of its nationals
against Japan and its nationals," said David Ogden, acting assistant
attorney general in charge of civil affairs.

Ronald Bettauer, deputy legal adviser at the State Department, said
the U.S. confiscated some $90 million worth of assets owned by
the Japanese government, individuals and private firms.

The proceeds were used to finance the monetary claims of U.S.
nationals who were victims of Japan's wartime crimes, including
forced labor, he said.

"We believe that the treaty leaves no sound legal basis for the
United States or its nationals to seek further monetary recovery
against Japanese corporations, and that the treaty remains the
supreme law of the land," Bettauer said.

But some legal experts question the U.S. government's
interpretation of the treaty.

Harold Maier, professor of law at Vanderbilt University, said the
San Francisco peace treaty should not, and cannot, be taken to
preclude private actions by U.S. nationals against Japanese

"There is no evidence in the treaty's language or purpose that the
Allied powers agreed to excuse the government of Japan or
Japanese nationals from future private claims to recover for these
injuries," Maier said.

Former POW Tenney said: "I once again feel that I have been
taken prisoner -- but this time by my own country.

"The Japanese beat me with guns and swords. My country is
humiliating me, and the memories of those who did not survive,
with words." 

The Japan Times: June 30, 2000
(C) All rights reserved

POWs take redress plea to Senate 

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Former U.S. prisoners of war used as
forced laborers by private Japanese companies during World War
II initiated steps to get compensation from the firms during a
Senate committee meeting here Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a one-day hearing to examine
historical and legal issues surrounding forced labor imposed by the
Imperial Japanese Army and Japanese firms during the war.

The hearing was held in response to the increasing number of
lawsuits being filed by former POWs seeking compensation for
forced wartime labor at the hands of Japanese captors in violation
of international law.

Bruce Harder, director of Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United
States, said: "We want to make it clear that we strongly support
the right of veterans who are former POWs to receive fair and just
compensation for the injuries they suffered at the hands of their
Japanese captors."

Some 30 damages lawsuits have been lodged in California over
slave labor involving Japanese entities, following the July 1999
enactment of a state law extending the statute of limitations for
World War II claims to 2010.

But both the Japanese and U.S. governments are critical of such
moves, saying the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty stipulates the
final and complete resolution of the redress issue involving Japan.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the
hearing is not meant to produce a dispute with the Japanese people
and that legal actions are not claims against the Japanese

"Rather, this is a hearing, the purpose of which is to determine
whether those who profited from the forced labor of American
POWs have an obligation to remedy their wrongs and whether the
United States can help facilitate a resolution," the Utah Republican

Most of the U.S. slave laborers were captured on the Bataan
Peninsula of the Philippines after the country fell to Japanese
forces in 1942.

Harold Pool, a former POW now residing in Salt Lake City, said
that after surviving the infamous Bataan Death March, "My
greatest challenge was still ahead -- two years of forced slave
labor for Nippon Steel Corp."

"We were starved, beaten and abused," he said.

Pool and other former U.S. POWs lodged compensation lawsuits
against Japanese companies in December.

"Our lawsuit is not against the Japanese government, nor the
Japanese people. My lawsuit is against Nippon Steel -- the
corporation which benefited directly from my forced slave labor,"
he said.

Harder of the veterans group asked: "If the Japanese are willing to
apologize and pay restitution for crimes committed by their own
soldiers against the former 'comfort women' (sex slaves) of South
Korea, then why should they not do the same for American POWs
who were also ruthlessly abused and enslaved during World War

The Japan Times: June 30, 2000
(C) All rights reserved

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