Jap sex slavery: Emperor 'guilty'
Tokyo - In a mock tribunal on Japan's wartime policy of forcing women into
sexual slavery, an international panel of judges on Tuesday found the
late Emperor Hirohito guilty and demanded the state compensate and
apologise to victims.
The court of law, however, saw it differently.
In rulings handed down just days before a symbolic Women's
International War Crimes Tribunal, a Tokyo court said women raped
by soldiers during World War II should not get government
compensation because, among other reasons, the statute of
limitations had expired on their decades-old case.
Victims said time had not eased their agony.
"Everytime I relate my story, I feel the pain all over again," said
Filipino victim Tomasa Dioso Salinog, 71, who told of being
kidnapped by Japanese troops as a teenager. "I can never forget
what I've been through."
Historians say Japan forced about 200 000 women to work in military
brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Tokyo has admitted
that this was the case but refused to provide compensation or an
official apology to individuals.
It insists that all government-level compensation was settled by
postwar peace treaties, and courts say international law does not
require damages to be paid.
Mock trial participants said Japan had not adequately acknowledged
responsibility. Besides Hirohito, military leaders and wartime
politicians were among the accused, and judges said a final verdict
to be issued in March, 2001 would determine their responsibility.
As far as the emperor's role, "he knew or should've known about the
establishment of the system of comfort stations," said Gabrielle
McDonald, one of the judges. "He took no action to respond."
No Legal Force
The trial was organised by non-governmental organisations to draw
attention to the plight of women who were forced into sexual
slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.
The ruling, which came after four days of testimony from
now elderly former sex slaves and ex-Japanese soldiers, had no
legal force. But the victims - who ended the trial by waving white
handkerchiefs before a crowd of cheering supporters - said they
felt some vindication.
"There's hope for us," said Jan Ruff-O'Herne, a Dutch woman
victimised by Japanese troops in Indonesia. "The main thing after
this tribunal is that Japan will apologise by acknowledging the
wrongs of the past."
Outside the assembly hall where the tribunal was held, a small but
vocal group of ultra-rightists protested at what they said was an
attempt by the "international communists" to belittle Japanese
They broadcast through loudspeakers their belief that
Japan did not force women into sexual slavery.
'I Am Alone'
The victims who participated in the tribunal had a very different
story to tell.
In an interview with Associated Press Television, Salinog of the
Philippines talked about seeing Japanese soldiers decapitate her
father - her one remaining parent - with a sword as he struggled to
keep them from abducting her.
"I could bear all the suffering they inflicted on me, but the
killing of my father changed my whole life," she said in her local
dialect. In heavily accented English, she added, "I am alone."
Salinog was one of 80 former sex slaves from the Philippines who
last week lost a court case in which they demanded 920 million yen
($9 million) and an apology from the Japanese government for
Review in March
The Tokyo High Court upheld a lower-court ruling rejecting their
demands. The ruling came less than a week after the court rejected
a former Korean sex slave's demand for compensation.
Participating in the mock tribunal were women from North and South
Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, East Timor and
The accused included Hirohito, military leaders and Cabinet
ministers who led Japan's wartime aggression in Asia. The four
judges said they planned to review the evidence and issue a final
verdict in March of next year that would determine the
responsibility of the other accused.
The tribunal achieved some, but not significant media coverage in
Japan. It attracted more attention from the rest of Asia, where
feelings are still raw over Japan's wartime plunder of the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said at a press
briefing on Tuesday that the mock trial "shows the strong indignation
of the majority of the victims, those Japanese people who uphold
justice and the international community.
"We hope Japan will adopt a responsible attitude and handle
properly the question of history," Zhang said. - Sapa-AP