The fight for justice continues not only in legislation but in litigation as well. Sixty years after the war, the U.S. government is still fighting Japanese American (JA) and Japanese Latin American (JLA) internees in court. The U.S. government continues to deny its own war crime committed against JLAs, and does not fully acknowledge its civil and human rights violations committed against people of Japanese ancestry during the War. The government has also used technicalities to fight internees in court and to keep the U.S. from being held accountable for its own wrongdoing. Let’s urge the U.S. government to stop the costly and lengthy court battles and to support a proper apology and redress for JAs and JLAs!

Between 1996 and 1999, five lawsuits were filed on behalf of the former JLA internees. The Mochizuki, et al. v. USA case resulted in a settlement whereby the US government agreed to issue individual apology letters and compensation of $5,000 per internee. While the settlement agreement terminated further litigation, there was a provision that allowed the pursuit of legislation for equitable relief in the US Congress. The other four lawsuits were dismissed by the US courts.

For the JLA internees who rejected the Mochizuki settlement and were unable to secure justice in the US courts, they continue the struggle in the international arena. In June 2003, a petition on behalf of the JLAs was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (a body of the Organization of American States) to hold the US government accountable for the ongoing failure to provide redress for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Let’s urge the US government to stop the costly and lengthy litigation and to support a proper apology and redress for JLAs.

Kato, Yano, and Ogura v. USA Dismissed by U.S. Court of Appeals

Following a hearing last December, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in January upheld the lower court's dismissal of Kato, Yano, and Ogura. v. USA. The plaintiffs in this consolidated redress case, are 6 claimants of Japanese descent, born in three different countries (the U.S. Japan, and Peru), and who were all wrongly imprisoned in the U.S. during World War II. The plaintiffs charged the U.S. with a continuing policy of discrimination, for violating their fundamental civil rights during the War and then later denying them an apology and redress, but the Court ruled that all legal action was barred by the statute of limitations. Pursuant to the court’s argument, the internees had one year after release from prison camp to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government

The attorney, Paul L. Mills of Los Angeles, recently reported that the internees’ subsequent petition for en banc review was denied by the Ninth Circuit Court. Mills indicated that that they will be appealing this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Henry Shima Denied Hearing by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

On April 4, 2001, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals considered the case of Shima v. USA, refusing to grant the plaintiff, Koshio Henry Shima, oral argument before the court. Shima, 75, is a U.S. citizen of Japanese descent, who was abducted from his home in Peru at the age of 18, put to forced labor in the Panama Canal Zone, and then imprisoned in the U.S. during WWII, without a hearing, for the duration of the war. Last year, Judge J. Spencer Letts of the U.S. Central District Court of Los Angeles, had dismissed Shima’s suit for damages, without allowing oral argument. This subsequent refusal by the Court of Appeals to allow Shima to be heard in court is the third time that Shima has been denied a court hearing by the U.S. government.

Commenting on the government’s refusal to allow Shima’s voice to be heard in court, attorney Paul Mills stated, “The government’s denial of a hearing sends a clear message that the U.S. still refuses to acknowledge its own civil and human rights violations.”

The decision of the Court of Appeals is currently pending.

U.S. Court of Appeals Dismisses NCRR & Joe Suzuki v. USA

On February 15, 2001, the Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of National Coalition for Redress/Reparations (NCRR) & Joe Suzuki v. USA, a class action lawsuit filed in 1998 that charged the government with malfeasance for failure to invest the $1.65 billion redress fund as required under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (CLA). NCRR sought the recovery of an estimated $200 million in lost interest to the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund for purposes of redress compensation and educational programming. In 1999, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Leggae granted the government’s motion to dismiss, ruling that NCRR did not have standing to challenge the government’s failure to invest the money in the Fund. NCRR appealed this decision, but the dismissal was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, stating that, “[NCRR’s] claim is not redressable because the fund has been terminated and its administering board no long exists.”

Former NCRR President Richard Katsuda remarked, “We are extremely disappointed in the court’s decision. We had hoped that the government would be held accountable for its wrongful acts and for its failure to carry out what is mandated by the people.”

NCRR was represented by McCutchen, Doyle, Brown, and Enerson LLP.

Oral Argument Hearing Date Set for Shibayama v. USA

The plaintiffs in Shibayama v. USA, Isamu Carlos (Art) Shibayama, Kenichi Javier, and Takeshi Jorge, have been scheduled for a court hearing at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., on July 6, 2001. The three brothers, who were all forcibly deported from their home in Peru and incarcerated in camp in Crystal City, Texas during WWII, are seeking redress equity for their civil and human rights violations, including full disclosure of the facts, an apology which matches the U.S. crime against humanity, a declaration of the false “illegal alien” status, redress compensation, and educational programming.

The attorney for the Shibayama brothers, Karen Parker of San Francisco, expressed her outrage at the government’s continual denial of the U.S. war crime committed against the Shibayama brothers and other JLAs during the war, “The U.S. took part in an ethnic cleansing scheme – the most serious violation of U.S. and international law. Until the U.S. admits the truth, their violations are ongoing, and our fight for justice continues.”

Following the July hearing, U.S. Federal Court of Claims Judge Marian Blank Horn will render her decision on the case.

U.S. State Dept. Argues to Throw Out Japanese Latin American Petition

In June 2003, the three Shibayama brothers (Isamu Art, Kenichi and Takeshi) and the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ( a body of the Organization of American States). The petition seeks to hold the US government accountable for the ongoing failure to provide redress for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The US government continues to argue that the IACHR does not have jurisdiction over this issue and should not accept the petition. Read the rest of the press release.


Contact: Campaign for Justice