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British Ex-POWs Protest at Embassy

April 9, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Former British prisoners of war marched to Japan’s embassy in London on Wednesday to demand an apology and compensation for atrocities committed during World War II.

A dozen British veterans handed a letter to the Japanese ambassador demanding that Japan admit guilt for what they called ``immoral and inhuman″ treatment.

Members of the Association of British Civilian Internees-Far East Region say they were starved and forced by Japanese soldiers to work under slave-like conditions in prison camps.

The group also vowed to continue pressing their views in the weeks before Japanese Emperor Akihito’s visit to Britain next month.

Japan forced war prisoners to work in shipyards, mines and jungles in violation of international law. Prisoners were also beaten and some were executed.

The death rate of POWs at the Japanese camps was 27 percent, compared with a rate of 4 percent at allied camps.

A lawsuit was filed three years ago by former POWs on behalf of 73,000 members of veteran’s organizations from several countries, seeking financial compensation.

The Japanese government insists all war compensation issues were settled by postwar treaties, and says individuals cannot sue a country under the Hague Convention of rules of war.

During Prime Minister Tony Blair’s visit to Japan in January, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto apologized for Japan’s role in World War II, and announced three war reconciliation programs, including a scholarship program for grandchildren of British POWs.

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