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Thursday, November 26, 1998 Published at 06:51 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Fury over PoW decision

Arthur Titherington (second left) and the other plaintiffs arrive at court

Former prisoners have reacted angrily to a Japanese court's decision to reject their legal bid to claim compensation and an apology for mistreatment at the hands of the Japanese in World War II.

The BBC's Juliet Hindell in Tokyo: Bitter disappointment for POWs
Seven former prisoners from Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, were seeking $22,000 (£13,500) compensation each for the suffering they endured in Japanese PoW camps.

Arthur Titherington: "There is no justice in Japan"
One of the plaintiffs, Arthur Titherington, Secretary of the Japanese Labour Camp Survivors' Association, spat on the doorstep of the Japanese parliament, the Diet.

He told reporters: "There is no justice in this country."

The plaintiffs were representing 20,000 former Allied prisoners of war and civilian detainees or their widows, who were held by Japanese forces as they swept through south east Asia during 1941 and 1942.

Verdict has saved Japan millions

If it had it been successful, their legal claim, which was begun in January 1995, would have cost the Japanese Government about £290m.

The PoWs' solicitor, Martyn Day: "Time is running out for my clients"
The Japanese Government, which fought the legal challenge, argued that compensation had been settled by the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty, which paid out £76 each for prisoners of war and £49 for civilian detainees.

The Vice President of the Japanese Labour Camp Survivors Association, Sid Tavender, said the fight would continue and an appeal had already been lodged by the plaintiffs' legal team.

Mr Tavender, 80, from Gloucester, said: "Many of the PoWs were subjected to appalling maltreatment, including torture, starvation and use as forced labour."

Thousands died in camps

More than 12,400 Britons died in captivity and thousands more suffered appalling physical and mental scars. Many of the Allied servicemen captured following the fall of Singapore were tortured by Japanese soldiers, who considered surrender a despicable act.

Giving his verdict, Judge Shigeki Inoue, said under the terms of the 1951 treaty individuals or groups could not seek compensation from the government.

He said compensation issues must be dealt with on a government-to-government level.

Peter Hunt speaks to PoW survivor Phyllis Jameson about her struggle for compensation
One of the 20,000 former internees, Phyllis Jameson, says: "We lost everything. Our pride, my family - mother, my sisters, my, brother. People say that's the past and that you should forgive and forget. I say it can be forgiven, but not forgotten. Never forgotten."

[ image: The fear is still fresh in Mrs Jameson's mind]
The fear is still fresh in Mrs Jameson's mind
She was imprisoned in a camp for civilians on Sumatra after being evacuated from Singapore, when it came under heavy and sustained attack by the Japanese in February 1942.

She was just 13 and lost her five sisters and her mother as the boat that was evacuating them was sunk by the Japanese.

By day, she was made to dig graves, build roads and cut down trees. At night she was sexually harassed by the guards.

"I had lice so as not to make myself pretty," she said. "I shaved off my hair. That was the worst for me because my hair was my pride and joy. Some of them still pestered me at nights, I couldn't get away from it.

"After all these years I still can't get away from it."

[ image: Mrs Jameson's husband is dead but she is still fighting]
Mrs Jameson's husband is dead but she is still fighting
At the end of the war, she received about £45 compensation - prisoners of war got slightly more.

Many other countries negotiated much larger payments from Japan.

On the boat home, she fell in love with and later married Tom Jameson - a Japanese prisoner of war.

Only recently, did she find the courage to speak out and join a dwindling band of ageing campaigners. Many of them have died, including, two months ago, her husband.

Those left campaigning have a tough fight on their hands. The Japanese say they have apologised and the issue of compensation was legally settled 40 years ago.

The British Government does not want to reopen the issue. It believes its relationship with Japan wants to look forward, not back.

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