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Japan: Act to Promote the Collection of War Dead Remains Passed

(June 13, 2016) The Act on Promotion of Collection of Remains of War Dead was promulgated in Japan on March 30, 2016, and became effective on April 1, 2016.  (Act No. 12 of 2016, Official Gazette website (in Japanese).) The new Act states that collection of the war dead’s remains is the state’s obligation, and it designates the next nine years as a concentrated implementation period. (Id. art. 3.) An organization that is newly designated by the government will collect and return remains of the war dead. (Id. arts. 10 & 11.) The government must collect relevant information on the war dead and their remains and seek the cooperation of other countries in doing so. (Id. arts. 6 & 7.) The Act also obligates the government to enhance the system of DNA analysis of remains and establish a database to enable matching remains to dead individuals. (Id. art. 9.)

The government’s project of collection and return of the remains of Japanese war dead started in 1952, based on a resolution of the Japanese House of Representatives and the Cabinet’s consent. In the beginning, the targeted areas were former major battlefields to the south of Japan that included South/Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands, Okinawa, and Iwojima. (Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), Opinion Submitted to the Government on the Search, Discovery, and Collection of Bodies and Bones of the War Dead in Battlefields and Internment Areas Outside Japan, JFBA website (Nov. 15, 2012) (in Japanese).)

Thus far, 1.27 million out of 2.4 million of the war dead’s remains have been returned. Among the 1.27 million remains, 340,000 were collected through the government project. Others were returned by fellow soldiers and civilians at the end of the war and by private groups. (Editorial [Collection of Remains Act Passed] Government’s Seriousness to Be Tested, OKINAWA TIMES (Feb. 26, 2016) (in Japanese).)