92. Although the Government of Japan has acknowledged moral responsibility for the system
of organizing sexual slaves euphemistically called “comfort women” during the Second World War, it has refused to accept legal liability or to pay compensation to the victims.115 There has been no attempt to implement the set of recommendations the Special Rapporteur made in her 1996 report,116 or those outlined by the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the appendix to her final report on systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during armed conflict.117
93. According to the December 2000 report of The Asian Women’s Fund, the private fund
set up to compensate the victims and to carry out projects to assist them, the project of atonement from the Japanese people involves recipients receiving a letter from the Prime Minister of Japan expressing apology and remorse and compensation of 2 million yen. To date 170 former comfort women have received atonement money. In addition, the Fund conducts many other laudable activities to assist women and elderly people affected by the Second World War and violence against women.
94. In recent years, several of the victims of sexual slavery have brought lawsuits in Japanese courts; a number of these cases are still pending. Of those that have been decided, the results are decidedly mixed. Three “comfort women” were each awarded 300,000 yen (US$ 2,300) by the Shimonoseki Branch of the Yamaguchi District Court on 27 April 1998, after the court found that the women had been held in sexual slavery and that their human rights had been violated. The court essentially held that there was a legal obligation for the Government of Japan to compensate the women, holding that the failure of the Diet to pass legislation compensating the women for their suffering “constituted a violation of Japanese constitutional and statutory law”.118 Both the plaintiffs and the Government filed an appeal at the Hiroshima Higher Court, which is currently pending.
95. By contrast, the Tokyo District Court rejected the lawsuit of 46 former “comfort women”
from the Philippines on 9 October 1998,119 as well as the claim of a Dutch former “comfort woman” on 30 November 1998.120 An appeal filed by the plaintiffs in the Filipino women’s case was rejected by the Tokyo Higher Court on 6 December 2000. An appeal in the case of the Dutch woman is pending before the Tokyo Higher Court. Similarly, the Japanese High Court of Justice rejected the appeal of a former Korean “comfort woman” on 30 November 2000, acknowledging her suffering but ruling that she - as an individual - did not have the right under international law to bring an action against a State for compensation. The Court also held that the statute of limitations for Koreans living in Japan to claim compensation for war damages ended in 1985.121 In September 2000, a group of 15 former “comfort women” filed a class action suit in the Washington District Court demanding compensation for the crimes committed against them.122
96. In December 2000, women’s groups held a Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery (Tokyo Tribunal 2000), to highlight the ongoing denial of compensation to the victims of Japan’s system of “comfort women” by the Government and the impunity that continues for its perpetrators. Evidence from “comfort women” living in the two Koreas, the Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, China and the Netherlands were gathered in detail and were now finally available as a matter of record. The evidence was presented by an international prosecutor before an eminent panel of international judges. The findings of the judges to the Tribunal reiterated the legal liability of the Government of Japan and the need to set up a process to punish the perpetrators of the crimes. The Government was, however, not represented at the Tribunal.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, submitted in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/52