Abuse of authority by the captain of a Maritime Self-Defense Force supply vessel is suspected to have been behind the suicide of a crewman in September, sources close to the matter said Tuesday, citing an internal probe.
The MSDF has set up a panel to investigate whether the captain was involved in verbal and physical abuse that could have been related to the 32-year-old ensign’s death on the Tokiwa supply vessel, they said.
According to the probe, which is covering about 140 crew members, the captain verbally abused the ensign repeatedly, calling him “stupid” and telling him to “die.”
He also ordered the crewman not to rest and to “get lost,” and was seen hitting him with a binder the night before his suicide. The probe also revealed that the captain had hit another crew member, according to the sources.
The ensign left no suicide note, but allegations of abuse of power by the captain and other senior officers have been reported to the MSDF.
The captain has admitted to “strictly instructing” the ensign, according to the panel set up last week.
The allegations suggest the incident may be the latest in a string of harassment and bullying cases in the MSDF. In October 2004, a seaman on a Japanese destroyer killed himself after being assaulted and suffering harassment at the hands of a superior.
A Tokyo High Court ruling found the crew member had been shot at with an air gun by an older MSDF petty officer in bullying that led to his suicide. The MSDF was also found to have covered up investigation documents.
In 2014, a crewman of a destroyer took his own life after being bullied by a senior officer who hit him with a penlight. The officer was later fined for assaulting the crewman and destroying his mobile phone.