Opinion with Respect to the Status of Forces Agreement between Japan and the United States
(Reference) Summary_Table of Provisions of U.S.-Japan (SOFA) and Points of the Opinion
February 20, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (hereinafter referred to as “the JFBA”) recently prepared an opinion paper with respect to the Status of Forces Agreement between Japan and the United States and submitted it to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on March 5, 2014, and to the Minister of Defense on March 10, 2014.
The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and The United States of America (hereinafter referred to as the “Security Treaty”) and the Agreement Under Article VI of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States of America, Regarding Facilities and Areas and the Status of United States Armed Forces in Japan (hereinafter referred to as the “SOFA”) were concluded in January of 1960 and took effect in June of that year.
The SOFA was concluded as a treaty to prescribe the provision of facilities and areas (U.S. installations) and the legal status of the United States Armed Forces, the service members, the civil components and their dependents, under Article VI of the Security Treaty which prescribes that “[f]or the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East,” the United States Armed Forces are granted the right to use “facilities and areas in Japan.”
Given that the SOFA was concluded under the turmoil of the anti-Security-Treaty-movement, there is a historical backdrop to the effect that the SOFA took over the administrative agreement, which was concluded in September of 1951, under the prior security treaty, without going through a full process of examination and deliberation in the Congress. Therefore, secret agreements between both governments have a grave impact on the interpretation and practice of the SOFA, while various problems (including unfairness and irrationality) as pointed out in the following are encompassed within the SOFA.
These problems are not only problems between both of the applicable national governments but are also nationwide problems for they are connected directly with the lives of citizens, their civil rights and the conservation and exploitation of our homeland. Local public entities in which U.S. installations are located (more than 30 prefectures across the nation), are calling for drastic changes to be made to the SOFA.
In order to recover damages for people who are suffering from the burden of military installations infringing upon their civil rights, and in order to deter the occurrence of further damage, we, the JFBA, as an organization consisting of attorneys who are “entrusted with the mission of protecting fundamental human rights and achieving social justice” (Article I of the Attorney Act), hereby announce our opinions for suitable amendments to the SOFA with respect to following seven major problems that we deem to be of particular importance.
(1) PROVISION AND RETURN OF FACILITIES AND AREAS (in relation to Article II of the SOFA)
(2) APPLICATION OF THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS OF JAPAN TO THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES, AND CONTROL OVER INSTALLATIONS (in relation to Article III and Article XVI of the SOFA)
(3) ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS (new provision)
(4) ENTRY AND DEPARTURE OF VESSELS AND AIRCRAFT (in relation to Article V of the SOFA)
(5) AIR TRAFFIC (in relation to Article VI of the SOFA)
(6) CRIMINAL LIABILITY (in relation to Article XVII of the SOFA)
(7) CIVIL LIABILITY (in relation to Article XVIII of the SOFA)