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Nishimatsu lawsuit (re World War II forced labour)

Nishimatsu victims China Daily credit - ReutersIn 1998, five Chinese survivors of World War II brought legal action in Japan against Nishimatsu Construction.  The plaintiffs alleged that Nishimatsu forcibly brought Chinese individuals to the Hiroshima Prefecture during World War II and used them as forced labour in order to construct the Yasuno power plant.  The claims were private tort actions through which the plaintiffs sought an apology and compensation from Nishimatsu.  The plaintiffs claimed that Nishimatsu breached its duty of care to its wokers by failing to maintain a safe working environment and by abducting the victims and forcing them to labour under harsh conditions. 

In 2002, these allegations were brought before the Hiroshima District Court, which dismissed the claims.  However, in 2004, the Hiroshima High Court reversed the District Court’s decision and ordered Nishimatsu to pay damages to the plaintiffs.  Nishimatsu filed an appeal with the Japanese Supreme Court, which the Court heard on 15 January 2007.  On 24 April 2007, the Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court issued the final judgment in the case.  The Supreme Court dismissed the claim and reversed the High Court’s decision, upholding the Hiroshima District Court decision.  The judgment by the Supreme Court was based on the 1972 China-Japan Joint Communiqué, which renounced demands by the Chinese Government for war reparations.  The Supreme Court, however, recognised that the defendant had benefitted from the construction of the power plant, which subjected Chinese victims to work in conditions that caused them mental and physical pain.  In an unusual move for the court, the Supreme Court expressed hope that the company would make efforts to provide the plaintiffs with some manner of compensation.  In October 2009, Nishimatsu voluntarily entered into an out-of-court settlement.  It agreed to set up a trust fund of ¥250 million to compensate the Chinese workers (or their descendants).  The company issued an apology under the ‘Settlement Terms’ and has promised to erect a memorial at the site of the power plant.   

 

- “Forced Labor Redress in Japan and the United States”, Matthew Augustine, Stanford Asia-Pacific Research Center, 13 Nov 2009

- “Company changes tune over war labor”, Asahi Shimbun, 24 Oct 2009

- “Assessing the Nishimatsu corporate approach to redressing Chinese forced labor in wartime Japan”, Kang Jian, Arimitsu Ken & William Underwood, Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 23 Nov 2009

- “Japan’s top court poised to kill lawsuits by Chinese war victims”, William Underwood & Kian Jian, Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 2 Mar 2007

 

Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China, 29 Sep 1972

 

Judgment concerning Para. 5 of the Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China, and how to treat the claims of citizens of the People's Republic of China…arising in the course of prosecution of the Japan-China War, Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court of Japan, 27 Apr 2007

- [PDF] Text of the Nishimatsu Settlement [in Japanese], 23 Oct 2009

 

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Article
27 April 2007

[PDF] Judgment concerning Para.5 of the Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China, and how to treat the claims of citizens of the People's Republic of China against Japan or Japanese citizens or...

Author: Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court of Japan

The appellees of final appeal are citizens of…China. They are persons who assert that during World War II, they were forcibly brought to Japan…to be engaged in forced labor...Taking into consideration various circumstances concerned, e.g. the Victims suffered tremendous pains mentally and physically whereas the appellant received considerable benefits by causing Chinese workers to be engaged in forced labor under the aforementioned harsh working conditions and it further obtained state compensation, we expect the appellant and other parties concerned to make efforts to give relief to the Victims.

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Article
2 March 2007

Japan’s top court poised to kill lawsuits by Chinese war victims

Author: William Underwood & Kian Jian, Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

…The other case is the appeal by the Japanese government and Nishimatsu Construction, which refused to accept the Hiroshima High Court decision requiring them to compensate the forced labor victims…At the end of 2002, when the lawsuits launched by the Chinese victims had been under way for seven years, a new defense argument was used by the Japanese government. It was asserted that “the plaintiff’s right to claim for personal compensation has been abandoned as the result of treaties.” This argument is called “abandonment of the right to claim...” [I]n 1972 when China and Japan restored diplomatic relations…and theJoint Communique was signed…

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Article
10 July 2004

Chinese wartime laborers win in landmark [Japanese] high court ruling

Author: Asahi Shimbun

...the Hiroshima High Court overturned a district court decision and awarded 27.5 million yen to a group of Chinese brought to Japan in World War II and forced to work under brutal conditions...The court ruled that Tokyo-based Nishimatsu Construction Co. had forced the Chinese to work...under unhealthy and dangerous conditions without sufficient food. According to the ruling, the company also failed to ensure workers' safety.

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Lawsuit
14 May 2002

Nishimatsu lawsuit (re World War II forced labour)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In 1998, five Chinese survivors of World War II and [number] descendants of other Chinese nationals filed seven lawsuits in Japan against Nishimatsu Construction.  The plaintiffs alleged that Nishimatsu forcibly brought Chinese individuals to the Hiroshima Prefecture during World War II and used them as forced labour in order to construct the Yasuno power plant.  The claims were private tort actions through which the plaintiffs sought an apology and compensation from Nishimatsu.  The plaintiffs claimed that Nishimatsu breached its duty of care to its wokers by failing to maintain a safe working environment,, by abducting the victims and forcing them to labour under harsh conditions. 
In 2002, these allegations were brought before the Hiroshima District Court, which dismissed the claims.  However, in 2004, the Hiroshima High Court reversed the District Court’s decision, and ordered Nishimatsu to pay damages to the plaintiffs.  Nishimatsu filed an appeal with the Japanese Supreme Court, which the Court heard on 15 January 2007.  On 24 April 2007, the Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court issued the final judgment in the case.  The Supreme Court dismissed the claim and reversed the High Court’s decision, upholding the Hiroshima District Court decision.  The judgment by the Supreme Court was based on the 1972 China-Japan Joint Communiqué, which renounced demands by the Chinese Government for war reparations.  The Supreme Court, however, recognised that the defendant had benefitted from the construction of the power plant, which subjected Chinese victims to work in conditions that caused them mental and physical pain.  In an unusual move for the court, the Supreme Court expressed hope that the company would make efforts to provide the plaintiffs with some manner of compensation.  
In October 2009, Nishimatsu voluntarily entered into an out-of-court settlement.  It agreed to set up a trust fund of ¥250 million to compensate the Chinese workers (or their descendants).  The company issued an apology under the ‘Settlement Terms’ and has promised to erect a memorial at the site of the power plant.

In 1998, five Chinese survivors of World War II brought legal action in Japan against Nishimatsu Construction.  The plaintiffs alleged that Nishimatsu forcibly brought Chinese individuals to the Hiroshima Prefecture during World War II and used them as forced labour in order to construct the Yasuno power plant.  The claims were private tort actions through which the plaintiffs sought an apology and compensation from Nishimatsu.  The plaintiffs claimed that Nishimatsu breached its duty of care to its wokers by failing to maintain a safe working environment and by abducting the victims and forcing them to labour under harsh conditions. 

In 2002, these allegations were brought before the Hiroshima District Court, which dismissed the claims.  However, in 2004, the Hiroshima High Court reversed the District Court’s decision and ordered Nishimatsu to pay damages to the plaintiffs.  Nishimatsu filed an appeal with the Japanese Supreme Court, which the Court heard on 15 January 2007.  On 24 April 2007, the Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court issued the final judgment in the case.  The Supreme Court dismissed the claim and reversed the High Court’s decision, upholding the Hiroshima District Court decision.  The judgment by the Supreme Court was based on the 1972 China-Japan Joint Communiqué, which renounced demands by the Chinese Government for war reparations.  The Supreme Court, however, recognised that the defendant had benefitted from the construction of the power plant, which subjected Chinese victims to work in conditions that caused them mental and physical pain.  In an unusual move for the court, the Supreme Court expressed hope that the company would make efforts to provide the plaintiffs with some manner of compensation.  In October 2009, Nishimatsu voluntarily entered into an out-of-court settlement.  It agreed to set up a trust fund of ¥250 million to compensate the Chinese workers (or their descendants).  The company issued an apology under the ‘Settlement Terms’ and has promised to erect a memorial at the site of the power plant.   
 

- “Forced Labor Redress in Japan and the United States”, Matthew Augustine, Stanford Asia-Pacific Research Center, 13 Nov 2009
- “Company changes tune over war labor”, Asahi Shimbun, 24 Oct 2009
- “Assessing the Nishimatsu corporate approach to redressing Chinese forced labor in wartime Japan”, Kang Jian, Arimitsu Ken & William Underwood, Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 23 Nov 2009
- “Japan’s top court poised to kill lawsuits by Chinese war victims”, William Underwood & Kian Jian, Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 2 Mar 2007
- [PDF] Text of the Nishimatsu Settlement [in Japanese], 23 Oct 2009