Japan to have jurisdiction over some U.S. military-linked incidents

Mainichi Daily News
November 25, 2011

Japan and the United States have agreed to partly change a bilateral arrangement concerning U.S. military personnel, allowing Japan from now on to have jurisdiction over accidents and crimes involving civilian staff at U.S. bases under certain circumstances, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Thursday.

Until now, the United States had primary authority to try both military and nonmilitary U.S. personnel if they are suspected of committing crimes while on duty.

The agreement to change the operation of the Status of Forces Agreement was struck on Wednesday by the Joint Committee, Gemba told reporters.

Gemba said this is “one step forward” in addressing the concerns of residents in Okinawa and other areas of Japan that host U.S. military bases, who have voiced anger for many years about the way drunken driving and other crimes involving civilian staff at U.S. bases have been handled.

Since 2006, U.S. workers at the bases involved in serious accidents have only been reprimanded by the U.S. military, not prosecuted in court, according Japanese officials. There are around 5,000 U.S. civilian employees at the bases in Japan.

Still, despite the change, the two countries confirmed that primary jurisdiction rests with the United States.

U.S. suspects will only be tried by Japanese courts when the United States decides not to exercise its jurisdiction and gives its consent to Japanese authorities, said the memorandum signed by the two countries. …

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