Attorney Annette Eddie-Callagain has had to defend people subjected to closed-door interrogations, limited access to lawyers and lengthy detention during which they are pressured to confess.
These practices by Japanese police violate the fundamental rights of a suspect and are the reason the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement is needed, said the only licensed non-Japanese lawyer in Okinawa.
Eddie-Callagain, former attorney for a U.S. airman convicted in 2002 of raping an Okinawan woman, believes SOFA is vital for protecting the rights of service personnel suspected of committing crimes in Japan.
“The U.S. service members are sent here because of their government, and should be afforded a certain amount of protection equivalent with what they have in the U.S.,” she told The Japan Times last month in Tokyo.
She defended U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland, 25, who was convicted of raping a woman in the town of Chatan, Okinawa Prefecture, in June 2001. He was sentenced in March 2002 to 32 months in prison.
Woodland insisted he was innocent throughout the police investigation and trial, claiming the sex had been consensual.
“The issue of SOFA is (seen by the Japanese) to give favoritism to Americans,” Eddie-Callagain said.
But she said SOFA can raise Japanese people’s awareness about the nation’s judicial system, which she believes violates the basic rights of criminal suspects.
The Japanese “should look at it as a way of hope for everyone’s rights,” she said.
Eddie-Callagain first came to Japan as a military lawyer in 1990. She opened a private practice in the city of Ginowan in 1995 and has represented a number of Okinawan women seeking child support from U.S. servicemen who have left Okinawa.
She said the Japanese public tends to blame the presence of U.S. bases for a number of social problems that involve service members.
“The Amerasian issue is a social issue, but Japanese people prefer to think of it as a military problem. They are connecting everything to blame for the U.S. bases,” she said. “The thinking of Japanese people often becomes so closed anytime the U.S. military or SOFA is mentioned.”
She also thinks Japanese antipathy toward the U.S. military presence is due in part to the Japanese government’s failure to explain fully the reasons for having the forces in the country.
“The Japanese government decided to have the U.S. military for its security, but (it) is not educating the people on the purpose of the military presence,” she said.
However, Eddie-Callagain said it is only natural for people to feel frustration because there is a seemingly untouchable foreign military presence in their country.
“The thing that symbolically separates (Japanese from the U.S. bases) is the fence,” she said, noting this prevents good relations from developing. “The fence means there are so many obstacles.”