Statement on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Reversion of Okinawa to Japan
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan.
The ground battle of Okinawa during WWII thrust many residents of the islands into the middle of the war, resulting in the tragic deaths of one out of every four people of Okinawa’s population. Okinawa was placed under the direct control of the U.S. military following the end of the war. The San Francisco Peace Treaty allowed Japan to regain its sovereignty but provided that the U.S. would be the solo administrator of Okinawa, and placed the islands under American trusteeship. The occupation lasted as long as 27 years before Okinawa was returned to Japan. While Okinawa was under American administration, military bases were built one after another. The Constitution of Japan, which came into force in 1947, doesn’t apply in those bases, leaving the human rights of the people of Okinawa neglected for a long time.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) released “Statement on the Occasion of Reversion of Okinawa to Japan” dated May 15, 1972, the day of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan. In it, we pointed out that “the reversion means restoration of human rights. Okinawa must return to being protected under the Constitution of Japan as it should rightly be.” Today, half a century later, we need to reflect on the time passed and examine whether or not the wish made at the time of the reversion has been fulfilled.
Today, 70% of the U.S. military bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, and incidents and accidents caused by members of the U.S. military forces continue to occur. In addition, the presence of U.S. military bases has been an obstacle to Okinawa's economic development. The wish of the people of Okinawa for the consolidation and reduction of U.S. military bases on the islands and the revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement is far from being fulfilled, and there are still many issues to be resolved regarding the construction of a new base in Henoko, which is being pushed forward by the government.
Since the JFBA established the then-subcommittee on human rights issues in Okinawa under the Human Rights Protection Commission in 1954, we have conducted research and made proposals numerous times to restore and protect human rights in Okinawa. But we must say that we are only halfway through fulfilling the purpose. It goes without saying that it is the government's responsibility to implement measures to ensure that the rights of the people of Okinawa are fully protected, but it is also the responsibility of us citizens to push it forward.
The JFBA will continue to work hand in hand with the people of Okinawa and work tirelessly for their peace and human rights so that they will be able to continue to build a prosperous and blooming future using its unique nature, history and culture as a foundation.
May 15, 2022
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
President Motoji Kobayashi