U.N. report criticizes Japanese politicians' remarks on 'comfort women'

June 01, 2013


GENEVA—A U.N. report on May 31 criticized Japanese politicians and local leaders for denying the facts about “comfort women” and urged Tokyo to take measures to prevent "re-traumatizing" the victims.

The Japanese government should "refute attempts to deny the facts by the government authorities and public figures and to re-traumatize the victims through such repeated denials,” the report of the U.N. Committee against Torture said.

The committee monitors whether countries are upholding the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The panel regards comfort women, who were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II, as victims under the convention.

The report did not mention Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto by name. But during the examination process, three of the four committee members who raised the comfort women issue referred to his recent remarks, such as, “Anyone can understand that the comfort women system was necessary,” and, “There is no evidence to prove that the Japanese government forcibly took the women (to frontline brothels).”

The report not only criticized Diet members and high-ranking local government officials, but it also expressed concern that public compensation or relief measures have not been provided to former comfort women and that those involved in setting up the comfort women system have not been prosecuted.

The report also called on the Japanese government to accurately describe the comfort women issue in history textbooks.

In addition to the comfort women issue, the U.N. report referred to the “substitute detention” system in Japan, in which suspects are detained in police jail cells instead of legally stipulated detention houses.

Ten members of the committee evaluate each country once every several years. Japan, which acceded to the convention in 1999, received an evaluation on May 21 and 22 for the first time in six years. It was the second examination for the country.

During the evaluation process, Japanese government officials explained to the U.N. panel about the statement issued in 1993 by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, which expressed Japan’s apologies and remorse to former comfort women. They also cited the efforts of the Asian Women’s Fund that was set up to provide compensation to the women.

The Japanese officials did not refer to Hashimoto’s recent remarks.

The mayor himself was busy on his Twitter account on June 1 explaining his stance on the comfort women system.

He tweeted: “The focal question is whether Japan abducted comfort women on the will of the state or not. The primary reason why the comfort women issue remains unresolved is because the Kono statement leaves the point obscure.

“So far, many Japanese historians and politicians, mainly those of the Liberal Democratic Party, have denied that. But that denial has been directed toward the Japanese people. Can they make the same denial toward the United Nations and the world?”

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The Osaka city assembly votes down a censure motion against Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 30. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

The Osaka city assembly votes down a censure motion against Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 30. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

  • The Osaka city assembly votes down a censure motion against Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 30. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

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