“The United States has long recognized that the mass incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II was wrong,” said Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch’s U.S. Program. “In the post-September 11 environment and with the United States preparing for a possible war with Iraq, it is more vital than ever for elected officials to recognize that confining persons based solely on their national origin is never justified.”
During a February 5 radio call-in show with Representative Coble, a caller suggested that Arabs in the United States should be interned. While he did not endorse the confinement of Arab-Americans, Coble said he agreed with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision to establish internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Coble also pointed out that, “some Japanese-Americans probably were intent on doing harm to us…just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."
A representative from Coble’s office confirmed to Human Rights Watch that Coble believes national security as well as protection of the Japanese Americans required their internment.
During World War II, more than 110,000 persons of Japanese descent – U.S. citizens as well as non-citizens – were removed from their homes on the west coast of the United States and confined in relocation camps for three years. In 1988, the United States formally apologized and later made reparation payments to all Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II, or to their heirs.
Human Rights Watch said Representative Coble’s statements are particularly disturbing since he is the chair of a key subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee that addresses anti-terrorism.
“We are pleased that Representative Coble did not support the internment of Arab-Americans,” said Fellner. “But his justification of the Japanese-American internment suggests he fails to understand certain basic human rights principles. Congress and the administration should affirm that all efforts to protect U.S. national security will scrupulously protect fundamental rights, including the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of national origin.”