Thursday, July 12, 2012

21. Breaking the history of silence *

The women's international war crimes tribunal for the trial of the Japanese military for crimes of sexual slavery 

After the Second World War, the allies set up a tribunal to prosecute those responsible for war crimes perpetrated by the Japanese military.  The Tokyo Tribunal, often considered the poor sister of the Nuremberg Tribunal, has been criticised for the selectivity over crimes prosecuted and also for its failure to prosecute Emperor Hirohito.  Another criticism of the IMTFE is that it failed to prosecute those responsible for the plight of so-called 'comfort women'.  Comfort women are women who were placed in 'stations', held in sexual slavery and brutally raped during the war.  Women from Korea (North and South), China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Okinawa are yet to receive a proper apology from the Japanese government nor monetary compensation for the suffering they endured.  

Only one man has been prosecuted for crimes related to 'comfort women'.  General Iwate was convicted for war crimes relating to a Dutch woman held in a comfort station during the colonization of Indonesia.  Despite being the overwhelming victims of Japanese military, Asian women have yet to receive any redress and their claims are continuously rejected by courts, including the recent rejection by the Philippine Supreme Court.  

In 2000, a People's Tribunal was held in order to prosecute Hirohito and those responsible.  The Tribunal also found that the state of Japan was responsible for the crimes in terms of state responsibility.  Elderly women from all over Asia and the Netherlands bravely came to testify about their experiences.  Many were kidnapped as teenagers and transported around comfort stations.  Some were impregnated during the gang rapes by soldiers, sometimes numbering 60 men during one day.  Some former soldiers also came forward to testify to their role in raping women in China.  

The Tribunal was comprised of international judges and prosecutors including, Patricia V. Sellers, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald , Carmen Argibay (an excellent Argentine judge), Prof Christine Chinkin (my supervisor), Willy Mutunga, and countless lawyers and activists.  

Of course, the most amazing and moving part of the documentary is hearing the testimony of these women.  The Tribunal recommended that Japan should apology and so it should. 

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