LONDON – The British government is set to compensate 7,000 former British prisoners of war who suffered years of torture and cruelty in Japanese camps during World War II, a British newspaper reported Sunday.
The Observer said the payout per person would be 10,000 British pounds ($15,100). The Defense Ministry, which is mulling POW compensation claims, is expected to make an announcement in the next few weeks.
British veterans were elated Saturday night when they learned that Prime Minister Tony Blair and Defense Minister Geoff Hoon are “very sympathetic” to their claims, the report said.
News of the possible payouts comes after Canada and Isle of Man, an autonomous British territory in the Irish Sea, recently agreed to payouts of 10,000 pounds to POWs.
In March, however, the British government refused to compensate the POWs, saying the issue had been settled by the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which covered Japanese war reparations.
But the report quoted a source close to the prime minister’s office as saying it would be “political suicide” to turn down the veterans’ demands.
The Observer attributed the policy change to a “significant concession” made by the Royal British Legion, which is helping the POWs’ campaign.
The article quoted Jeremy Lillies, the legion’s head of communications, as saying it would not support claims by other POWs who feel they had been badly treated by Germany or had suffered in other conflicts, such as the Korean War and the Gulf War.
The former prisoners of Japan likely to be covered include 79-year-old Arthur Titherington, who has appealed a 1998 Tokyo District Court ruling that rejected a class-action damages suit he and six other veterans and civilians filed in 1995. The plaintiffs represented more than 10,000 former POWs from Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
In the suit, Titherington claimed the Japanese military captured him in Singapore in 1942 and forced him to toil in a copper mine in Taiwan.