Japan: Violation of human rights of indigenous peoples of Ryukyus / Okinawa – the issue of militarisation

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Joint written statement* submitted by the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), the Association of the Indigenous Peoples in the Ryukyus (AIPR), non-governmental organizations in special consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

Land rights

During WWII, the Japanese government was confiscating lands from the civilians for military usage, while in Ryukyu / Okinawa such land confiscation by the government significantly increased since 1943. No proper compensation was offered or provided by the government, even after the WWII. The forcibly confiscated lands of the Ryukyu people were resold to third parties or given to the U.S. military. US military has been also grabbing the land of the peoples of Ryukyus during the WWII as well as its occupation of Ryukyu / Okinawa thereafter for constructing its bases, violating Article 46 of the Hague Convention.1

In 1972, US military government returned Okinawa (Ryukyu Islands) to Japan. However, under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement between Japanese and US government, US military bases have remained unchanged and even more military bases and facilities, including those of Japanese Self-Defense Forces, were brought to Okinawa from mainland Japan.2 Today 74% of U.S. military bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa which consists of only 0.6% of Japanese territory. It is not only the violation of their land rights, but also such disproportionate concentration of military facilities in Ryukyu / Okinawa must be regarded as clear discrimination by Japanese government which violates various human rights of the peoples of Ryukyus.3

Right to education

U.S. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma is located in the middle of Ginowan city, Ryukyu / Okinawa, directly adjoining residential area and in the immediate vicinity of ten elementary, five junior high and four high schools as well as one university. People in Ginowan city have been suffering from various issues emerging from the presence of MCAS Futenma, one of those is the noise pollution. Through noise measurement by an associate professor of the Ryukyu University at Futenma Second elementary school which verges on the MCAS Futenma it became clear that noises of takeoffs and landings of U.S. military planes at MCAS Futenma can become louder than 100 decibels at maximum.4 At the time of measurement, there were in total of 11 flights, takeoffs and landings of military plane during 45 minute long class (every 4 minutes on average). In general the noise lasts 30 seconds for each flight, takeoff or landing and the class must be adjourned for every time. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency5 any human conversation becomes inaudible when the surrounding noise is louder than 75 decibels. Similar case of class interruption through noise of US military plane is also taking place in the schools close to the U.S. Kadena Air Base, which is the largest air base in the Far East. Fighters and helicopters fly over schools frequently.

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