• Kyodo

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For the second day in a row, a court has cited a 20-year limit in rejecting a lawsuit by Chinese seeking compensation for being forced to work in Japanese coal mines during the war.

The Nagasaki District Court said Tuesday the 10 listed plaintiffs — eight forced laborers and two slave laborers killed in the 1945 Nagasaki atomic bombing who are being represented by relatives — had lost their rights to demand compensation because the 20-year time limit had expired. They were seeking 200 million yen in damages.

Presiding Judge Naoyuki Tagawa acknowledged the laborers were “illegally” brought to Japan but said the 20-year period for them to demand compensation under the Civil Code has run out. Since their slave labor ended with Japan’s 1945 surrender, they would have had to file suit by 1965, or seven years before Japan and China even had diplomatic relations.

On Monday, the Miyazaki District Court cited the same time limit to reject a 184 million yen lawsuit by seven former Chinese laborers and the family of a deceased laborer.

The defendants in the suit at the Nagasaki court are the government of Japan, the Nagasaki Prefectural Government, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

The three-judge panel at the court found that the 10 Chinese laborers were brought to Japan mainly from Hebei Province to work at three coal mines in Nagasaki Prefecture. Of the 10, two died in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in August 1945 while they were being held at a prison on suspicion of subversive activities.

Judge Tagawa rejected the Japanese government’s argument that the state has no responsibility to give compensation under the now-defunct Meiji Constitution, which frees the state from tort liability.

The judge acknowledged Mitsubishi Mining Co., a predecessor to Mitsubishi Materials, failed to ensure a safe environment for forced laborers.

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