by Kazuko Itō, Lawyer and Human Right Activist
Excerpt from her Blog
Unusual Criticism by UN Human Rights Top Official
High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who is retiring the position in September 2014, made a public statement to criticize the Japanese government’s response to the issue of wartime sexual slavery on August 6th.
It is unusual for a UN top official to criticize Japan so harshly. It made me feel the seriousness of the situation and the severity of international criticism.
She had never stopped sincere talks with Japan and had been negotiating with the government persistently. Obviously, she felt the attitude of the Japanese government for this time was inexcusable.
Here is the whole statement.
I don't repeat her statement but what she points out is true. The Japanese government should respect her statement sincerely not because she is a UN human rights top official but because she is an expert on this issue.
Ms. Pillay was formerly a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and sat in judgment on serious human rights infringements committed during the Rwandan Civil War. She earned a reputation for a groundbreaking judicial decision that sexual assaults on women that were prevalent in Rwanda as a means of "ethnic cleansing" could correspond to the crime of genocide (The Case of Akayesu).
This decision contributed to the development of an international law; the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court which, for the first time, stipulated that rape constitutes genocide or a crime against humanity. She is remembered as a lawyer who had the greatest influence on forming an international law that states wartime violence is an inexcusable crime. After that she served as a judge on the International Criminal Court.
Because of her rich experiences in an international law, she is respected everywhere and represents how far international law reached. It seems that she was not able to overlook Japan's attitude since she strongly believed that violence against women in conflict should be treated as an issue of human rights.
International common sense is based on an idea similar to the one held by Ms. Pillay. Therefore, Japan will never be able to go unpunished regardless of the sophistry they employ.
Suppose South Korea brings this issue to the International Court of Justice or it asks for advisory opinions from the court. While the judgment of such a civil claim is uncertain, those who have studied international laws even just a little are certain that Japan's responsibility should be clarified, judging from how far the international jurisprudence has reached.
Most Importantly, Lack of Decency is a Problem
If Japan continues to neglect the issue, whether Japan is a civilized state respecting basic human rights will become suspicious. It affects how other countries evaluate Japan even if they don’t show their true feeling obviously. Henceforth, Japan will be isolated from international society.
It is highly regretful.
If you value your country's honor, you should not hide or distort facts. In such a political climate, Japan will have only disrespectable people who have no true self-respect and lack overall sensitivity to human rights in the next generation.
Besides their international reputation, I wonder how they can neglect the issue as decent human beings. Aren’t they ashamed of themselves?
Each one of us needs to think whether it is all right to deny the responsibility by making the above excuses.
If this remains unresolved, it will affect future cases. Whenever an infringement of women’s human rights is committed, the truth of the case will never be investigated.
Not investigating the truth of a case and covering the facts is a long-lived tradition that has survived in issues such as sexually offensive heckling in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. These issues have the same root. This is also the problem of current Japanese women.
My major concern is that as the result of hiding and distorting the facts and shelving offenders' responsibility, Japan might become such a disgraceful state that it goes to war again.
A state might make the same mistake by convincing its people to think a war is unavoidable, by paralyzing their imagination of agony from damage and sacrifice people in other nations faced during war or their decent sensitivity to human rights.
Each individual has to think by themselves whether this is right or not and has to take action accordingly.
If you don't know much about this issue or the Japan's responsibility as a perpetrator, read various books and study so that you can understand the facts.
Read the following documents, too.
Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Japan - announced by UN Human Rights Committee in July 2014
Why Does Japan Re-Examine the Kono Statement Secretly? (Japanese)
Hashimoto, Osaka Mayor, Says, "Comfort Women Were Necessary." Why Is It a Problem? (Japanese)
Original Article: http://wan.or.jp/book/?p=8093&page=3
Translated by Atsuko Ishikawa