Monday, June 18, 2007

Japan Rejects China WWII Slavery Suit

from the Washington Post...

TOKYO, Jun 17, 2007 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- Japan's Supreme Court has rejected appeals by dozens of Chinese seeking compensation for being forced into slave labor during World War II, their lawyer said Saturday.

It was the second such decision in days by Japan's top court.

The 42 former Chinese laborers had sought $6.89 million in damages from the Japanese government and 10 companies they worked for, including major contractors and mining operators. The lawsuit was originally filed in 1997, and only half the laborers are still alive.

Toru Takahashi, a Japanese lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the court issued "a decision to reject the appeal" on Friday, but had no other details.

The court was closed Saturday.

The case was dismissed in June last year by the Tokyo High Court, which ruled that the 42 plaintiffs could not seek compensation because a 20-year statute of limitations had expired.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, also citing the statute of limitations, rejected appeals by six Chinese people demanding $905,000 in compensation for being forced into slave labor at nickel mines in Kyoto in western Japan during World War II.

In that case, the court said the current government was not responsible for the wrongdoing of leaders who followed the wartime constitution. Japan enacted a pacifist constitution after its WWII defeat.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that Chinese citizens lost their right to seek redress from Japan following the 1972 signing of a Joint Communique restoring bilateral ties between the countries. In the communique, Beijing abandoned its right to claim war reparations from Japan.

Critics argue that the communique only affects the government, not individuals, but the Supreme Court ruling largely sets the tone for lower court decisions and could affect pending lawsuits.

Japan's military shipped hundreds of thousands of men from China and other Asian countries to Japan to work in coal mines and factories during the war to make up for a domestic labor shortage. It also forced women into sexual slavery for Japanese troops.

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