Racism panel asked to review Futenma plan

Kyodo

Three groups have appealed to a U.N. racial discrimination panel to urge the Japanese and U.S. governments to reconsider their plan to maintain the Futenma military base in Okinawa.

The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, a Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization, was among the groups that filed the request Friday with the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination over the planned relocation of Futenma within the prefecture.

It is the first argument filed with the Geneva-based committee using the argument that the relocation plan constitutes a human rights violation.

The U.N. panel is to hold a series of meetings through early March to monitor compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Although Japan and the United States are not subject to the review, sources said it is technically possible for the panel to invoke its emergency power to issue a nonbinding recommendation to correct a breach of the convention.

Japan will also be the object of a review in October by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which periodically examines conditions in all U.N. member states, meaning the Futenma issue could come under U.N. scrutiny at that point.

The three groups’ request argues that the presence of the air base constitutes a huge burden on Okinawa, which accommodates 74 percent of all U.S. bases in Japan while the prefecture accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japanese territory.