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Saturday, June 17, 2006
TIME LIMIT TROTTED OUT ANEW
Another slave-labor suit fails
By JUN HONGO
The Tokyo High Court dismissed an appeal Friday filed by Chinese nationals seeking 840 million yen from the state and 10 Japanese companies for their wartime slave labor, saying the defendants were guilty but the 20-year limit to file a suit had passed.
The suit, filed in 1997, was rejected by the Tokyo District Court in March 2003. Seventeen of the 42 plaintiffs have passed away since then and the appeal was made by the surviving 25 plaintiffs and relatives of the deceased.
The corporate defendants were Hazama Corp., Nishimatsu Construction Co., Tekken Corp., Nittetsu Mining Co., Japan Energy Corp., Furukawa Co., Ube Industries Ltd., Dowa Mining Co., Tobishima Corp., and Mitsubishi Materials Corp.
Presiding Judge Nobuo Akatsuka agreed that the government and the companies unlawfully forced the plaintiffs to work, and that the employers failed to make the workplace safe.
However, Akatsuka upheld the decision of the lower court, concluding that "the court cannot deny the fact that the case has passed (the 20-year) expiry."
The plaintiffs' demand that an apology be printed in newspapers in Japan and China was also rejected.
The 42 people named in the case were taken from China between April 1944 and January 1945 and forced to work at construction sites and in coal mines across Japan.
The plaintiffs had claimed the state and the corporations colluded in the slavery.
The plaintiffs also had charged that the employers did not ensure their safety and were now obliged to pay compensation under Chinese civil law in effect at the time they were enslaved.
One member of the group, 79-year-old Lou Qing Hai, said he could not accept the "unjust ruling."
Lou was brought to Japan at age 16 and was forced to work building a Tobishima Corp. electric power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
He said he was beaten by the Japanese field manager and now suffers a stomach disease that resulted from the harsh conditions.
"The Chinese people are behind us on this case," Lou said.
"And my children and grandchildren will continue this battle."
The defendants' argument had centered on the expiration issue.
They also questioned the legitimacy of Chinese law being applied to a case in Japan.
There are 12 other pending slave-labor lawsuits.
A 13th suit was settled with Kajima Corp. out of court, while the others have lost in the lower courts on the 20-year limitation issue.
The plaintiffs said they will appeal the case.