April 8 (UPI) — An Australian woman who was raped by a U.S. sailor in Japan asked Japanese officials on Thursday to amend an agreement it has with the U.S. military that some say make it difficult to prosecute American military personnel for crimes against civilians.
“If you are against rape, change the sofa,” Catherine Jane Fisher said at a news conference whole holding up an image of herself standing next to a battered sofa The “sofa” was in reference to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which she said allows U.S. military members accused of crimes to evade prosecution due to Article 16 of the agreement.
Article 16 of the SOFA says U.S. military personnel must “respect” the laws of Japan. And Fisher says that word allows some U.S. military personnel to evade responsibility for crimes because Japanese officials told her they are only required to “respect the laws of Japan, not obey them.”
Fisher asked that “respect” be changed to “obey.”
“[Tomorrow] will mark 16 years that I have been trying to change one part of Article 16 of the SOFA … to change just one word,” Fisher said, the Japan Times reported.
Fisher unleashed a scroll of laminated paper several feet long that listed rape and murder cases allegedly committed by U.S. military personnel since the 1940s.
Fisher’s ordeal goes back to 2002, when she accused Bloke Deans, a U.S. sailor at the time, of rape. Deans was sent back to the United States after the accusation and Japanese prosecutors never filed criminal charges.
But Fisher won a civil court case in Japan in 2004 and was paid 3 million yen from a Japanese Ministry of Defense fund for victims of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel.
In 2012, she filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee, where Deans was living, to claim the damages she won in Japanese court – but only asked for a symbolic $1 settlement.
At the news conference in Tokyo, Fisher acknowledged that there is much disagreement in Japan over whether the country should continue to allow the United States to maintain military bases there. But she urged for Japan to take a tougher stance against the U.S. military personnel accused of crimes.
“This has been happening on the island of Okinawa for over 70 years,” she said. “Imagine if someone comes into your house and starts raping and murdering your family. Are you going to offer them another cup of tea? Or are you going to ask them to leave?”