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SOFA Change Negotiations Not Faring Well

Date Posted: 2003-07-11

Working level negotiations toward procedural changes in the U.S. - Japan Status of Forces Agreement are hitting snags. Japanese newspapers are quoting officials as saying disagreements over granting special rights to Americans are influencing the talks.

U.S. negotiators want an American government representative and an interpreter present when American servicemen are being questioned by Japanese police, and that statements made without such representatives present be tossed out as evidence. The U.S. position also calls for fair and humanitarian handling of suspects while in Japanese custody, the same as is afforded Americans detained and interrogated in the U.S.

The Japanese position is that such treatment is contrary to Japanese law, and is not afforded Japanese citizens. Therefore, they say, they cannot grant special treatment on criminal jurisdiction procedures for U.S. servicemen and women who are crime suspects. Japanese negotiators also argue that Americans must fully comply with Japanese laws and their judicial system.

Okinawa Prefecture Police Chief Kiyotaka Takahashi says he’s opposed to anything that would interfere with efforts to build a “relationship of trust between the investigator and the suspect, and should not be allowed.” He says he has concerns that allowing it would be a violation of “the privacy and honor of officials, and concern that the secrecy of the investigation of the investigation would be undermined.”

Takahaski also rejected the need for an interpreter to be present, saying his staff which conducts interrogations speaks fluent English. He also rejects the U.S. request that interrogations not exceed ten hours in a day, saying “the time necessary…..depends on the situation of each case.”

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