UN requests Japan to redress 'comfort women'

Updated: 2014-07-25 09:26


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GENEVA - The United Nations Human Rights Committee raised its concerns on Thursday over the issue of "comfort women" and requested Japan to make immediate and effective efforts to redress this issue.

The UN committee made the request in its concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Japan on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR).

The Human Rights Committee, the body composed of independent experts that monitors implementation of this core human rights instrument, noted that during its sixth review of Japan's report, the "comfort women" was one of the highlighted issues that required immediate attention from the Japanese government, according to Cees Flinterman, vice chairperson of the committee.

The monitoring panel placed emphasis on Japan's contradictory position on this issue: Japan said that the "recruitment, transportation and management" of these women in comfort stations was done in many cases generally against their wills through coercion and intimidation by the military during wartime, but the "comfort women" were not "forcibly deported".

"We thought it is important to highlight this particular contradictory position, because it seemed to imply that there was no true human rights problems," Flinterman told reporters, adding that with such a stance Japan could put the legal responsibility that it should shoulder into question.

The committee believed that any such acts carried out against the wills of the victims are sufficient to consider them as human rights violations involving the direct legal responsibility of Japan.

The committee was also concerned about re-victimization of the former "comfort women" by attacks on their reputations, including some by public officials and some encouraged by Japan's equivocal position.

The committee expressed further concerns that all claims for reparation brought by victims before Japanese courts have been dismissed, and all complaints to seek criminal investigation and prosecution against perpetrators have been rejected on the ground of the statute of limitations.

Such a situation was considered by the committee as a reflection of ongoing violations of the victims' human rights, as well as a lack of effective remedies available to them as victims of past human rights violations.

Flinterman said that the concerns over the issue of "comfort women", which is a constant one that has been on the table of the committee, were raised out of Japanese delegation's attitude to deny it as a true human rights problem.

The committee requested Japan to take immediate and effective legislative and administrative measures to redress the issue of "comfort women".

It called for independent, effective and impartial investigations into this wartime sex slavery and stressed the urgency of the issue given the reducing number of living survivors.

It urged Japan to ensure "all allegations of sexual slavery or other human rights violations perpetrated by Japanese military during wartime against the 'comfort women' should be effectively, independently and impartially investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished".

Moreover, Japanese authorities should ensure the access to justice and full reparation to victims and their families, and disclose all evidences available, as the committee stressed.

Japan was also requested to fully educate students and the general public about the issue, including adequate references in textbooks.

In addition, the committee accentuated that Japan should make public apologies, and officially recognize its responsibilities, meanwhile make all efforts to condemn any attempts to defame victims or to deny the events.

Nigel Rodley, the chairperson of the committee, told journalists that they wanted Japan to make a statement that the victims and their families "can recognize it as an unambiguous and uninhibited acceptance of total reasonability for compelling them to engage, for a part of their lives, in something that could only have destroyed their lives".

All parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are obliged to submit regular reports to the committee on how the rights are being implemented.

Parties must report initially one year after acceding to the covenant and then whenever the committee requests, usually every four years.

The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the party in the form of concluding observations.