Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Activists for Japanese-Latin Americans interned in WWII

It has become well known that the US interned many people of Japanese origin during the second world war. It is not so well known that many of these internees were actually citizens of countries in South America, some of whom were deported to Japan. Others were not allowed by their own countries to return after the war. There's an article about it on the Japan Times site, coinciding with the visit to Japan of activists from the US campaigning for compensation and an apology equal to that given to Japanese internees.

Three U.S. activists assisting Japanese-Latin Americans interned during World War II urged Japan and public Thursday to heighten their awareness of the issue and support their quest for more redress from Washington.

Grace Shimizu, a founding member of the California-based Campaign for Justice, said former Japanese-Latin American internees have not received "a proper apology and acknowledgment" from the U.S. government for the violation of their human rights.

Shimizu, a daughter of a former Japanese-Peruvian internee, and two other group members are visiting Japan to boost information about their efforts to help Japanese-Latin Americans living here, and to show a 28-minute documentary featuring a former Japanese-Peruvian internee.

The United States forcibly took 2,264 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry from 13 Central and South American countries to internment camps in the U.S. between 1941 and 1945, according to the group, which was founded in 1996 by former internees and their families.

More than 800 of these internees were deported to Japan during the war in exchange for U.S. prisoners of war taken by Japan, it said. After the war, 900 out of some 1,800 Japanese-Peruvian internees came to Japan and another 300 remained in the U.S., because the Peruvian government refused to let them return, it added.

In 1998, the U.S. government and the Japanese-Latin Americans reached an out-of-court settlement that included compensatory payments of $5,000 per internee and a letter of apology from then U.S. President Bill Clinton.

However, given that Washington decided in 1988 to give $20,000 to each Japanese-American interned during the war, several former internees opted out of the agreement and are calling for equal reparations and the establishment a fund to help educate people about the events.

"We would like to inform the (Japanese) public" about what happened to the Japanese-Latin Americans, Shimizu said.

The group also said it wants to draw more attention to other related forms of discrimination still being exercised in the U.S., including the way Muslims were treated immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"What's really important is also to have dialogue within a society about the issues that are raised here (regarding the internment issue) so that people can see how things in the past are tied to issues of the present day," Shimizu said.

The group said it hopes to win more support for its cause from the international community by expanding grassroots education activities and filing a petition at the Inter-American International Commission on Human Rights, which promotes rights with the Organization of American States

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