Court rules Japan not responsible for war crimes

Mainichi Shimbun, Thursday, 23 September 1999

The Tokyo District Court stated Wednesday that Japan should sincerely apologize to the Chinese people for its atrocities against them during World War II, but dismissed a damages suit filed by victims of the atrocities.

It is undoubtedly a historical fact that Japan caused serious damage to many Chinese people during the Japan-China war. Japan obviously should offer sincere apologies to the Chinese people, Presiding Judge Ko Ito said.

However, the judge ruled that the Japanese government is not responsible for compensating the plaintiffs under international treaties regarding war reparations.

It was the first ruling on a lawsuit in which Chinese victims of the war sued the Japanese government for compensation.

Japan's courts in the past have handed down similar rulings on the grounds that the issue of wartime reparations has already been settled with the governments of the countries concerned.

Following the ruling, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said it cannot be denied that Japanese soldiers murdered civilians and plundered Nanjing after they invaded the city.

We must keep in mind Japan's colonial rule and the fact that Japan caused loss and pain to the victims (of Japan's atrocities in Asian countries), and renew our determination to pursue peace, Nonaka, who serves as the top government spokesman, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The 10 plaintiffs- victims of the atrocities and surviving relatives—demanded a total of 100 million yen each in compensation from the Japanese government.

The plaintiffs claimed that they suffered in biological experiments conducted by Unit 731 of the now defunct Japanese military, the Nanjing Massacre and the indiscriminate firebombing of the city of Yong'an.

The Japanese government has acknowledged that Unit 731, based in Harbin, conducted experiments with bubonic plague, anthrax and cholera on thousands of Allied prisoners of war and Chinese civilians.

Nevertheless, leaders of the unit avoided prosecution as war criminals in exchange for information on the results of their experiments.

The Japanese government has insisted that there was insufficient evidence to prove the extent of the unit's activities because all relevant documents were discarded at the end of the war.

China estimates that up to 300,000 people were killed in the 1947 Nanjing Massacre.