[EDITORIAL] Time for Japan to Apologize

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[EDITORIAL] Time for Japan to Apologize

Three Bosnian Serbs have been convicted of raping and torturing Muslim women and girls during the 1992-1993 Bosnian civil war and sentenced to a maximum of 28 years in prison by a U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague, the Netherlands.

Until this decision, wartime rape and torture committed by soldiers on women in the opposite camp were considered as the winners' spoils of war or not to be taken seriously because they were outcomes of war's madness. The archaic notion that does not recognize a woman's minimum rights as a human being persisted in the international community.

We, therefore, wholeheartedly welcome the tribunal's sentences for having broken away from such an anachronistic notion and defined wartime systematic rape as a crime against humanity. At the same time, we urge the Japanese government on this occasion to officially apologize for the sexual slavery committed by the Japanese Army during World War II and to compensate victims.

The civic groups centered on women from the victim countries have been demanding for the last 10 years that the Japanese government apologize for the crimes, compensate the "comfort women" and punish those responsible. However, the Japanese government has shown little effort in acknowledging the forced wartime sexual slavery of women or in taking voluntary measures to penalize the offenders. At most, it has attempted to gag the victims by paying compensation through a private foundation.

The enslavement of comfort women, a most cruel form of human rights violation, was unquestionably a war crime that should not be repeated. Nonetheless, the Japanese government has consistently turned a blind eye to the international community's repeated recommendations clearly outlined in reports submitted in 1996 and 1998 by Coomaraswamy and McDougall, special rapporteurs of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, that it punish those responsible and Japan should compensate the victims. But this can no longer be tolerated.

Further, hasn't the United Nations Subcommission on Human Rights requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to tell the Japanese government to report to the subcommission this year on whether it plans to carry out its legal obligations of paying compensations for its victims based on the resolutions on modern-age sexual slavery, including the Japanese Army comfort women?

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