Civil society strongly condemns the recent Mayor Hashimoto’s remark on the “Comfort Women”
1. Toru HASHIMOTO, the mayor of Osaka and a co-leader of the Japan Restoration Association, a political party with over 50 lawmakers in Parliament, remarked on May 13 that the “comfort women” for the Japanese Army during World War II was “necessary” in maintaining discipline in the army and providing relief for soldiers. “When soldiers are risking their lives by running through storms of bullets, and you want to give these emotionally charged mass of fighters a rest somewhere, everyone understands that a comfort women system was necessary,” he said to reporters. He also claimed that there was no proof that the Japanese authorities had forced women into servitude.
We, the undersigned international and Asian NGOs, as well as NGOs from other region strongly condemn these outrageous comments as an attempt to defend egregious violations of women’s human rights in the name of necessity.
2. So- called Comfort Women, are those who were victimized for widespread and systematic sexual violence at “comfort stations” or other facility in Asian regions by the former Japanese Military during World War II. The victims consisted of women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Netherlands and many other countries or regions. The victims were detained and forcibly subjected to continuous rape and other sexual exploitation by Japanese soldiers. Relentless violence was used, especially when women resisted, including beatings, stabbings and burnings. Coupled with the appalling conditions of detention, a large number of women lost their lives. Since the practice was completely against human dignity, survivors have been suffering grave distress both physically and psychologically for decades. As the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, and another independent UN expert correctly found, the reality of the “comfort women” system was nothing less than military “sexual slavery”.
Wartime rape, sexual slavery and forced prostitution are recognized as most grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court explicitly stipulates “sexual slavery” and “forced prostitution” as war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is obvious that the comfort women system constitutes grave human rights violations against international law and thus should never be justified and endorsed. Hashimoto’s remark is causing further pain and distress among the survivors. We demand Mr. Hashimoto withdraw his remark immediately and publicly apologize to the survivors.
3. More disturbingly, Hashimoto’s remark to deny the forcible nature of the practice is not an isolated incident but an echo of the 2007 decision of the cabinet under the first administration of Shinzo ABE to that effect, which claimed that “so far there is no evidence of forcible mobilization of the comfort women by the military or police.”
The Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei KONO on the Result of the Study on the Issue of “Comfort Women” (4 August 1993) already officially admitted that “[t]he recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments.” A number of court judgments in Japan also clearly found the forcible nature of the practice of comfort women. In addition, many survivors and witnesses testified in public, including to the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal that they were enslaved by abduction or other types of force, including official conscription, arrest, intimidation and violence by soldiers,. There are no grounds whatsoever to deny the forcible nature of the comfort women practice.
Despite the gravity of human rights violations, Japan has failed to provide effective remedy, including compensation, genuine apology or satisfactory measures to the survivors, and the ABE administration even attempted to deny the forcible nature of the practice by maintaining and publicly stating the above mentioned 2007 cabinet decision. Such an attitude has been widely criticized by UN human rights bodies such as the Human Rights Committee, the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW) and the Committee against Torture(CAT) as well as the Human Rights Council UPR working groups.
A public disclosure of the truth and a public apology, including an acknowledgment of the facts, is especially crucial for the victims of the “comfort women” system whose sufferings have been unduly neglected for decades.
Therefore, we demand that the Japan government officially condemn the remark made by Mr. Hashimoto and unequivocally reaffirm that fact that the comfort women practice was forcible in nature and constituted grave human rights violations.
 Coomaraswamy, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1996/53/Add.1 (1996). Ms. Gay J. McDougall, Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Human Rights on systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during armed conflict, UN Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/ 1998/13 (1998).
 Judgment, The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal for the Trial of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery, Case No. PT-2000-1-T, 31 January 2002. See also “ ‘Ianhu’ 100 nin no Shōgen”, DAYS JAPAN, vol.4, No.6, June 2007 (“Testimonies of 100 ‘Comfort Women’ ”, containing names and pictures of survivors from South Korea, North Korea, China, Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, the Netherlands, and East Timor on).
 See Basic Principles and Guidelines in the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted by the Commission on Human Rights in 2005, UN Doc. E/CN.4/RES/2005/35 (affirming such remedies for victims of gross violations of international human rights).
1 Amnesty International
2 Human Rights Now(HRN)
3 The International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
4 Asian Human Rights Commission(AHRC)
5 Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
6 Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA)
7 Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples(ACPP)
8 Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
9 MIGRANTE International
10 Coalition of African Lesbians
11 MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society( South Korea)
12 People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) (South Korea)
13 ‘SARANGBANG Group for Human Rights'(South Korea)
14 Korean House for International Solidarity(South Korea)
15 Buddhism Human Rights'(South Korea)
16 ‘Palestine Peace and Solidarity’ in South Korea(South Korea)
17 Human Rights Working Group(Indonesia), Indonesia NGO Coalition For International Human Rights Advocacy
18 IMPARSIAL, the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor(Indonesia)
19 Singapore Unity Project(Singapore)
20 Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC)(Singapore)
21 Project X (Singapore)
22 Function 8(Singapore)
23 Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)(Cambodia)
24 IPPF(International Planned Parenthood Federation) East and Southeast Asia and Oceania Region(Malaysia)
25 Lila Pilipina (Lila Pilipina is the organization of former Filipino Comfort Women) (Philippines)
26 The National Task Force on Urban Conscientization, a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines(Philippines)
27 KARAPATAN (Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights – Philippines)
29 BAN THE BASES(Philippines)
30 BAYAN( Philippines)
31 MIGRANTE BC(Philippines)
32 MIGRANTE Japan(Japan)
33 MIGRANTE Australia(Australia)
34 GABRIELA USA(USA)
35 All India Network of Individuals and NGOs working with N/SHRIs [AiNNI](India)
36 Human Rights Defenders Alert [ HRDA] (India)
37 People’s Watch(India)
39 PACTI( India)
40 National Alliance of women human right defenders, Nepal(Nepal)
41 WOREC (Nepal)
42 Youth Action Nepal (YOAC)(Nepal)
43 Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement if Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP)(Hong Kong)
44 Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) (Hong Kong)
45 Association of Concerned Filipinos(ACFIL) (Hong Kong)
46 Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) (Hong Kong)
47 Abra Migrant Workers Welfare Association (AMWWA) (Hong Kong)
48 CORALL(Hong Kong)
49 Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society (ATIS) (Hong Kong)
50 Cuyapo Association(Hong Kong)
51 Friends of Bethune House (FBH) (Hong Kong)
52 Filipino Women Association in HK (FILWOM) (Hong Kong)
53 Filipino Migrant Association (FMA) (Hong Kong)
54 Filipino Migrant Workers Union (FMWU) (Hong Kong)
55 GABREILA Hong Kong(Hong Kong)
56 LIkha Cultural Group(Hong Kong)
57 Mission Volunteers (MOVERS) (Hong Kong)
58 Pangasinan Organization for Welfare, Empowerment and Rights (Pangasinan Power) (Hong Kong)
59 Promotion of Church for People’s Response(Hong Kong)
60 United Pangasinan Hong Kong(Hong Kong)
61 United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK) (Hong Kong)
62 Filipino Friends – Hong Kong (Hong Kong)
63 Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center(Mexico)
64 Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)(Canada)
65 The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)(Canada)
66 Centro di documentazione ‘Semi sotto la neve’ Pisa (Italy)
67 Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com(Kuwait)
68 Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia (HRFS)(Saudi Arabia)