Compensation claims of Chinese victims of atrocities committed by Japan in the 1930s and 40s, which included using the biological weapons and massacre in Nanjing, were rejected by Japanese Supreme Court, defense lawyers said Thursday.
In two separate decisions made Wednesday, the top court upheld rulings by lower courts since 1999 that the current Japanese government was not liable for compensation demands from foreign citizens for wartime actions, according to defense lawyer Norio Minami.
The plaintiffs from the two cases, who totaled 198 people including the families of the victims, had demanded apologies and combined compensation worth 1.90 billion yen (US$15.8 million; EUR11.7 million) for death and suffering caused by wartime biological experiments, the so-called "Rape of Nanjing," and the firebombing of Yong'an city in China's Fujian province.
"These are unjust decisions that ignore the human rights and personal suffering of the defendants," Minami said. "The Supreme Court has completely neglected its responsibility to uphold justice."
Of the 180 plaintiffs involved in one of the cases, which sought compensation for biological warfare experiments, only 10 are actual survivors, the rest are relatives, lawyer Shuji Motonaga said. The remaining 18 plaintiffs sought payback for germ warfare, the Nanjing occupation and the bombing of Yong'an, said Masahiko Yamada, one of that group's attorneys.
The court refused to provide details of Wednesday's decisions.
But despite Wednesday's rejection, a lower court ruling in 1999 acknowledged that a special section within the Imperial Army, known as Unit 731, used biological weapons against China.
The Japanese government has never formally apologized over its germ warfare program or its rampage in Nanjing. The government acknowledged a germ warfare unit existed, but has remained mum on its details.
Historians estimate that Unit 731 may have killed as many as 250,000 people in their experiments - which included vivisections of Chinese prisoners and the use of germs - during the 1930s and '40s, when Japanese troops occupied much of China.
Researchers generally agree Japan's military also slaughtered at least 150,000 civilians and raped tens of thousands of women during its 1937-38 occupation of Nanjing. The Chinese government puts the number of dead at more than 300,000.
According to defense lawyers, Japan's bombings of Yong'an killed or injured more than 10,000 people in 11 raids from 1938 to 1943.
Tokyo's stand has long been that compensation claims were settled under postwar treaties between Japan and other nations. None of Unit 731's members has ever been tried for the killings.
Japan's refusal to compensate victims has fueled views among many Chinese that Tokyo has never sufficiently atoned for its brutal occupation.