FUKUOKA – The Fukuoka District Court on Wednesday dismissed a damages suit against the state and two companies filed by 45 Chinese who were forced to work at mines in Fukuoka Prefecture during the war.
The court rejected the plaintiffs’ demand for a combined 1.035 billion yen in compensation, or 23 million yen per plaintiff.
The two corporate defendants named in the suit are Mitsui Mining Co. and Mitsubishi Materials Corp.
Presiding Judge Keiji Suda said that forcing the plaintiffs to work at the mines “was an illegal act committed jointly by the state and the companies.”
However, he said the state cannot be held responsible because at the time, the country was governed under the Meiji Constitution, which was in effect from 1890 to 1947. Suda also said the plaintiffs’ right to reparations expired 20 years after the acts were committed.
The plaintiffs were forcibly taken to Fukuoka Prefecture from Hebei Province and other provinces in China from 1943 to 1944 and made to work without pay at sites including the Mitsui Miike mine in Omuta and the Mitsubishi Iizuka mine in Iizuka.
The plaintiffs filed the suit in February 2003, seeking monetary compensation and an apology, to be published in Japanese and Chinese newspapers.
In a separate suit filed by Chinese forced laborers, the Fukuoka District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2002, but the Fukuoka High Court overturned the ruling. The Supreme Court is currently hearing the appeal.