`There is no justice in this country'

War torture: Veteran spits his defiance as Tokyo court throws out case after four-year legal proceedings
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THE LEADER of a group of former British prisoners of war wept publicly and spat on the steps of the Japanese parliament building yesterday after a Tokyo court rejected his claim of compensation for brutal treatment.

Arthur Titherington, of the Japan Labour Camp Survivors' Association, was one of seven former Allied prisoners and civilian internees whose case was dismissed yesterday in the Tokyo district court. "To tell such lies, to say that I didn't have the shit beaten out of me for three and a half years," a weeping Mr Titherington told a press conference, after spitting on the steps of the Japanese Diet. "There is no justice in this country. They are lying bastards."

The group's British lawyer, Martyn Day, said he would appeal against the decision by the three-judge panel that Japan's liability for compensation came to an end with the 1951-52 Treaty of San Francisco, and that individuals were not entitled to claim compensation from governments.

The accounts of the sufferings undergone by the seven plaintiffs during their captivity were not accepted by the court, which judged them to be irrelevant to the questions of law under consideration.

"We came to Japan four years ago with the hope that the Japanese courts would understand the moral aspects of the case," Mr Day said. "We received a judgment which is a kick in the face.

"Look at the brave, forward-thinking decision made in the House of Lords today concerning General Pinochet, and compare it to this backward, out- of-date verdict, which makes no acknowledgement of developments in the field of human rights."

Mr Day said that the plaintiffs, who include former prisoners from Australia, New Zealand and the United States, are now considering other means of obtaining redress, including bringing legal action against their own governments for failing to obtain adequate compensation on the their behalf.

"When I get home my government is going to get it in the neck," said Mr Titherington, who is due to meet the Foreign Office minister Derek Fatchett next January.

Mr Fatchett said yesterday: "I saw Arthur Titherington on television and I realise how upset he and his colleagues are. We understand and sympathise. [But] we are constrained. It doesn't matter what we might wish to do."

Last January, after a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister in Tokyo, Tony Blair urged the former PoWs to seek reconciliation rather than compensation.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Blair said: "We understand the disappointment of those who brought the case. We never forget their suffering and sacrifice. But... the Government's position remains, as it has been throughout, that the issue of compensation was settled under the treaty of 1951."

Richard Lloyd Parry