Wednesday, June 17, 2020

To feed or what to feed--that is the question

U.S. military lawyers serving overseas are familiar with Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA), as are those of a host (or member) country. Most agreements are publicly available, some are not (e.g., by experience, Spain and Portugal have classified Annexes).
"A SOFA is an agreement that establishes the framework under which armed forces operate within a foreign country. The agreement provides for rights and privileges of covered individuals while in the foreign jurisdiction, addressing how the domestic laws of the foreign jurisdiction shall be applied to U.S. personnel. SOFAs are peacetime documents and therefore do not address the rules of war, the Law of Armed Conflict, or the Law of the Sea. In the event of armed conflict between parties to a SOFA, and because the agreement is a contract between the parties and may be canceled at the will of either, the terms of the agreement would no longer be applicable. With the exception of the multilateral SOFA among the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, a SOFA is specific to an individual country and is in the form of an executive agreement."
See R. Chuck Mason, U.S.-Iraq Withdrawal/Status of Forces Agreement: Issues for Congressional Oversight. Congressional Research Service, 13 July 2009. See, also, R. Chuck Mason, Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA): What Is It, and How Has It Been Utilized? Congressional Research Service, 15 March 2012.

Which brings us to Japan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan) posts the US/Japan agreement here (their Embassy in the U.S. here).

The Mainichi Times (Japan) compares some agreements here.

The Mainichi Times reports on one aspect of the SOFA causing some continuing consternation.
U.S. military-affiliated inmates at a prison branch in this city south of Tokyo have been receiving special treatment in their meals among other privileges compared to their Japanese counterparts and other foreign inmates.
According to the Ministry of Justice, there were seven U.S. military-related prisoners and 156 Japanese and other inmates serving time at the Yokosuka prison branch as of June 3 [2020].
[On 9 June 2020] [T]he menu for the Japanese and other detainees was miso soup containing onions and seaweed, natto or fermented soybeans, pickled plums, and a mixed bowl of rice and barley with a 7:3 ratio.
Differences could be seen in lunches as well, with U.S. military-related prisoners receiving steak, potato, asparagus, fruits cocktails, and peanut butter cookies while other inmates were provided with fried horse mackerel, broiled eggs and vegetables, pickled cucumbers, and a mixed bowl of rice and barley.
For some other reading,

The Asahi Shimbun reports on an Increasing mood seen for revising long-standing Japan-U.S. SOFA.

For an issue facing some of our clients there in earlier years, see The Rape Controversy: Is a Revision of the Status of Forces Agreement with Japan Necessary? 6(3) IND. INT'L & COMP. L. REV. 717 (1996).

C. Douglas Lummis, The US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement and Okinawan Anger. A Debate. Asia-Pacific Journal, 3 Oct. 2008.

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