1995 Okinawa rape incident
The 1995 Okinawa rape incident took place on September 4, 1995, when three U.S. servicemen – U.S. Navy Seaman Marcus Gill and U.S. Marines Rodrico Harp and Kendrick Ledet, who were 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 out of fear of Gill. The incident led to further debate over the continued presence of U.S. forces in Japan. 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 black and coerced confessions from them, but later retracted the claims.
After the incident became known, public outrage erupted, 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. Although false rumors spread that the suspects were free to roam the base and had been seen eating hamburgers, the suspects were in fact held in a military brig until the Japanese officials charged them with the crime. Despite an immediate request by Japanese law enforcement for custody and eventual trial, the men were only handed over on September 29, after the Japanese had formally indicted them. This delay followed 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." Although the military drove the suspects to police headquarters in Naha for daily interrogations, the SOFA provision and the delay in handing over the suspects increased the outrage over the attack, causing the largest anti-American demonstrations in Okinawa since the treaty was signed in 1960.
As a consequence of the protests regarding jurisdiction, the U.S. made concessions and agreed to consider handing suspects over to the Japanese before an indictment if the severity of the alleged crime warranted it. This agreement was hashed out 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 ad in The New York Times decrying the rape and other aspects of the U.S. bases in Okinawa. In 1996, the United States and Japan signed a bilateral agreement to reduce the amount of land on Okinawa covered by U.S. bases by 21 percent—the U.S. military had previously occupied 19 percent of the island.
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 in 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 removed 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.
Gill pleaded guilty to the rape, and the other two men pleaded guilty to conspiracy. The trial concluded in March 1996.
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 "reparation money" to the family of the victim, a common practice in Japan.
The three men served prison terms in Japanese prisons and were released in 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.
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 took his own life by using a knife to slice open his veins at the elbows.
In Japan, the crime continues to be well known and to have political implications. In 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 bar and using euphemisms for rape to discuss moving the US Futenma airbase. Tanaka was terminated as director of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, and in the cabinet reshuffle of January 13, 2012, Ichikawa was replaced by Naoki Tanaka.
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- The Japan Times Upper House censures ministers - Ichikawa, Yamaoka censured in Diet December 10, 2011 Retrieved on August 16, 2012
- The Japan Times New Noda Cabinet on tax push January 14, 2012 Retrieved on August 16, 2012