The Defense Ministry’s Maritime Staff Office said Tuesday it has punished three Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel over the suicide of a serviceman last year.
Following a probe into the matter, officials reached the conclusion that power harassment was involved in the suicide of an MSDF ensign who was a crew member on the resupply vessel Tokiwa, based at the naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Cmdr. Yukinori Takagi, 54, who was the captain of the ship at the time, was slapped with a 30-day suspension from duty, while two other senior MSDF officials, who were the 32-year-old ensign’s superiors, will be suspended for 20 days.
According to the office, Takagi admitted creating an environment where the ensign was harassed and verbally abused.
Adm. Yutaka Murakawa, the MSDF’s chief of staff, said it is “truly regrettable” that the abuse of authority by MSDF members caused the serviceman to take his own life.
The ensign was inexperienced and had only just recently assumed his new duties after being assigned to the Tokiwa in July last year.
In September, he committed suicide inside the vessel just after telling his superiors that he intended to resign. The cause of his suicide was not immediately ruled power harassment as no suicide note was found.
In interviews with crew members, including the three officers, following the suicide, investigators found nothing out of the ordinary.
However, last November, it was discovered the man was a victim of harassment after a whistleblower came forward.
The office’s investigation also found that Takagi bullied other crew members besides the ensign.
The MSDF has seen similar cases in the past.
In 2004 and 2014, two service members assigned to destroyers committed suicide due to bullying and violence.
As a preventive measure, the MSDF said it will routinely check on the working conditions of its service members.