1995 Okinawa rape incident

The 1995 Okinawa rape incident (Japanese: 沖縄米兵少女暴行事件) occurred on September 4, 1995, when three U.S. servicemen, U.S. Navy Seaman Marcus Gill and U.S. Marines Rodrico Harp and Kendrick Ledet, all serving at Camp Hansen on Okinawa, rented a van and kidnapped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl. They beat her, duct-taped her eyes and mouth shut, and bound her hands. Gill and Harp then raped her, while Ledet claimed he only pretended to do so due to fear of Gill.[1]

1995 Okinawa rape incident
LocationKin, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
DateSeptember 4, 1995 (1995-09-04)
Attack type
WeaponDuct tape
PerpetratorsKendrick Ledet
Rodrico Harp
Marcus Gill

The offenders were tried and convicted in Japanese court by Japanese law, in accordance with the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement. The families of the defendants initially claimed that Japanese officials had racially discriminated against the men because they were all African American and coerced confessions from them, but later retracted the claims.[2] The incident led to further debate over the continued presence of U.S. forces in Japan among Okinawans.[3][4]

Reaction edit

Photographs of the suspects' faces have been virtually absent from Japan's media. News executives were concerned that public anger over the rape would be further inflamed and take on racist overtones if the race of the suspects were widely publicized. A US military public-affairs officer, speaking from the US military's Japan headquarters at Yokota, says he cannot disclose the suspects' races out of respect for their privacy.[5]

After the incident became known, public outrage began, especially over the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement, which gives the U.S. service members a certain measure of extraterritoriality (exemption from jurisdiction of local law) only as it relates to the place the suspects were detained. While the crime was committed away from a U.S. military base, the U.S. initially took the men into custody, on September 6.[6] Although false rumors spread that the suspects were free to roam the base and had been seen eating hamburgers,[7] the suspects were held in a military brig until the Japanese officials charged them with the crime.[6]

Despite an immediate request by Japanese law enforcement for custody and eventual trial, the men were only transferred on September 29, after the Japanese had formally indicted them.[6] This delay was in conformity with the Status of Forces agreement, which states, "The custody of an accused member of the United States armed forces or the civilian component over whom Japan is to exercise jurisdiction shall, if he is in the hands of the United States, remain with the United States until he is charged."[8] Although the military drove the suspects to police headquarters in Naha for daily interrogations,[9] the SOFA provision and the delay in transferring the suspects increased the outrage due to the attack, causing surge of Anti-American sentiment among Okinawans and Japanese in general.

The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly passed a resolution to protest against the actions of the U.S. military.[10] On October 21, a rally was held in Ginowan City to protest the incident and the US military bases. About 85,000 residents participated in the rally, including the Governor of Okinawa Masahide Ota. This was the largest protest in Okinawa since the treaty was signed in 1960.[11][12] The then governor of Okinawa Masahide Ota even refused to sign the documents required by the US military base.[13]

As a consequence of the protests regarding jurisdiction, the U.S. made concessions and agreed to consider transferring suspects to the Japanese before an indictment if the severity of the alleged crime warranted it.[7][14] This agreement was decided at an emergency meeting between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. The people of Okinawa also placed a full-page advertisement in The New York Times decrying the rape and other aspects of the U.S. bases in Okinawa.[citation needed]

U.S. Navy Admiral Richard C. Macke was the commander of United States Pacific Command at the time of the attack. At a press conference during November 1995, Macke said of the men's actions: "I think it was absolutely stupid. I have said several times: for the price they paid to rent the car [used in the crime], they could have had a girl [prostitute]." These remarks were condemned as insensitive, and Macke was dismissed from his post and forced into early retirement. He was also reduced in rank to rear admiral (two-star) from full admiral (four-star), which reduced his pension from US$7,384/month to US$5,903/month.[15]

Trial edit

Gill pleaded guilty to the rape, and the other two men pleaded guilty to conspiracy. The trial concluded in March 1996.[16]

Prosecutors had asked for the maximum sentences for the men, 10 years each. The judge sentenced Gill and Harp to seven years' imprisonment; Ledet received six and a half years. Their families also paid monetary reparation to the family of the victim, a common practice in Japan.[citation needed]

Aftermath edit

The three men served prison terms in Japanese prisons and were released during 2003 and then given Other Than Honorable discharge from the military. After release, Rodrico Harp decried prison conditions in Japan and said that the electronics assembly prison labor he was forced to do amounted to slave labor.[17]

Ledet, who had claimed he did not rape the girl, died in 2006 in an apparent murder–suicide in the United States. He was found in the third-floor apartment of Lauren Cooper, a junior Kennesaw State University student and acquaintance whom he had apparently raped and murdered by strangulation. He then ended his own life by using a knife to slice open his veins at the elbows.[18]

In 2008, a movie named The First Breath of Tengan Rei based on the Okinawa incident was released.[19]

During December 2011 then-Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa was the subject of a censure motion from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party for failing to know the details of the rape. This followed his subordinate Satoshi Tanaka speaking with reporters in a tavern and using euphemisms for rape to discuss relocating the US Futenma airbase. Satoshi Tanaka was terminated as director of the Okinawa Defense Bureau,[20] and in the cabinet reshuffle of January 13, 2012, Ichikawa was replaced by Naoki Tanaka.[21]

See also edit


References edit

  1. ^ Teresa Watanabe "Okinawa Rape Suspect's Lawyer Gives Dark Account : Japan: Attorney of accused Marine says co-defendant admitted assaulting 12-year-old girl 'just for fun'". Los Angeles Times October 28, 1995
  2. ^ "Wife Pleads Marine's Case in Okinawa Rape Trial : Justice: Spouse says her husband, accused in brutal attack on schoolgirl, is a gentle and intelligent man". Los Angeles Times. December 5, 1995. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Thousands rally against U.S. bases in Okinawa". CNN. 21 October 1995. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  4. ^ "Road deaths ignite Korean anti-Americanism". International Herald Tribune. 1 August 2002. Archived from the original on 15 September 2007. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  5. ^ Barr, Cameron W. (October 26, 1995). "Japan's Media Avoid Showing Race of US Rape Suspects". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  6. ^ a b c "Americans Charged In Rape in Okinawa". The New York Times. The Associated Press. September 29, 1995. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  7. ^ a b Watanabe, Teresa (October 26, 1995). "U.S., Japan OK Pact on Military Crime Suspects". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  8. ^ U.S.-Japan SOFA Agreement, Article xvii (5) (c):
  9. ^ Norman, Adam B. (January 3, 1996). "The Rape Controversy: Is a Revision of the Status of Forces Agreement with Japan Necessary?". Indiana International & Comparative Law Review. 6 (3): 717–740. doi:10.18060/17677. ISSN 2169-3226.
  10. ^ "米軍人による女子小学生暴行傷害事件に関する沖縄県議会抗議決議 - データベース「世界と日本」". worldjpn.grips.ac.jp. Archived from the original on 2017-10-02. Retrieved 2021-12-28.
  11. ^ 高田佳典 (2020-10-21). "沖縄「怒りで島が揺れた」 米兵の少女暴行に抗議、あの日から25年". 西日本新聞. Retrieved 2021-11-19.
  12. ^ "普天間返還合意のきっかけ 1995年沖縄県民大会あす20年 | 沖縄タイムス+プラス ニュース". 沖縄タイムス+プラス (in Japanese). Retrieved 2021-12-28.
  13. ^ "反基地運動のうねり:時事ドットコム". 時事ドットコム (in Japanese). Retrieved 2021-12-28.
  14. ^ "外務省: 日米地位協定第17条5(c)及び、刑事裁判手続に係る日米合同委員会合意". www.mofa.go.jp. Retrieved 2021-12-28.
  15. ^ Eisman, Dale (October 16, 1996). "Retired Pacific Admiral is Censured "Unduly Familiar" Relationship with Marine Corps Office is Cited". The Virginian-Pilot. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
  16. ^ NHK. "沖縄 米兵暴行事件に怒り爆発". テレビ60年 特選コレクション | NHKアーカイブス (in Japanese). Retrieved 2021-12-28.
  17. ^ Allen, David (18 July 2004). "Ex-Marine decries nature of Japan prison work". Stars and Stripes, Pacific Edition. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  18. ^ Allen, D. "Former Marine who sparked Okinawa furor is dead in suspected murder-suicide." Stars and Stripes, Pacific Edition, 25 August 2006.
  19. ^ Allen, David (14 December 2008). "Film inspired by rape of Okinawa girl by U.S. troops". Stars and Stripes.
  20. ^ The Japan Times Upper House censures ministers - Ichikawa, Yamaoka censured in Diet December 10, 2011 Retrieved on August 16, 2012
  21. ^ The Japan Times New Noda Cabinet on tax push January 14, 2012 Retrieved on August 16, 2012