2020: War Crimes Tribunal - Declaration

"Trostfrauen" - Comfort Women

Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal 20th Anniversary Online Symposium  -  Draft Declaration

December 12th (Saturday) 2020,  1pm to 6pm (In Japan[JST])

How to use the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal Verdict and Testimonies for the Future
Now is the Time to Break away from Impunity for Sexual Violence and from Colonialism

International Symposium on the 20th Anniversary of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal
Draft Declaration

Today we gather on the 20th anniversary of The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal for the Trial of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery 2000 (the Tribunal). On this day exactly twenty years ago, in the presence of 1,300 onlookers including 64 former “comfort women” survivors of sexual violence from eight countries, four judges handed down the historic verdict, finding "guilt of the Emperor and responsibility of the Japanese state" (Summary of Verdict). The final verdict, which was presented one year later in The Hague, explicitly found the Japanese military and government "guilty of committing rape and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity."

The original purpose of the Tribunal was to respond to the survivors' demands for justice, to bring the perpetrators of Japanese military sexual slavery to justice under evidence-based international law, and to break the cycle of impunity for sexual violence that continues to this day. Further, it was to confront the perpetration of Japanese aggression and colonialism that lies behind it.

Twenty years after the tribunal, have these objectives been fulfilled? In Japan, the issue of Japanese military "comfort women" has not been resolved, and serious problems exist, including sexual violence "impunity" (i.e. acquittals) and racial-based hate speech. Furthermore, the Japanese government is trying to erase the memory of the "comfort women" issue itself, as shown by its policy of blocking the erection of Statues of Peace around the world. Yet, there is also hope. This hope comes from the #MeToo movement which questions the perpetration of sexual violence around the world; from the Black Lives Matter movement which reexamines slavery and colonialism; and from the younger generation in various countries who have no direct knowledge of the Tribunal and yet are acting to remember and pass on the "comfort women" issue.

Today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have joined together online with former "comfort women" and wartime sexual violence survivors, as well as support groups, from north and south Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste, to hold the International Symposium on the 20th Anniversary of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal. Together with an audience from within Japan and beyond, the first part of the symposium began with a reflection on the Tribunal with Ustinia Dolgopol, who served as one of the Chief Prosecutors at the Tribunal, Abe Koki, and Lee Na-young, reaffirming the contemporary significance of the Tribunal in overcoming the challenges of colonialism and impunity for sexual violence.

In the second part, the past and present testimonies and messages from 19 survivors of the “comfort women” system and wartime sexual violence from different countries were shared and taken to heart - Kim Hak-Sun, Park Young-sim, Lee Ok-sun, Lee Yong-soo (north and south Korea), Lee Bulan, Lee Jin-yo, Lee Jin-e-E (China), Ian Appay, Chen Tao (Taiwan), Narcisa Claveria, Estelita Di (Philippines), Chinda, Nuraini, Jaheran, Dori, Minche, Tashiyama (Indonesia), Marta Abu Bore, and Esmeralda Boe (Timor-Leste).

We today become witness to your testimonies. We will never forget those who have given testimony and since passed away, or those victims who have disappeared, nameless, into the waves of history.

Finally, the greatest mission of the day was to discuss how the verdict and testimonies can be used for the future, with messages from the youth of Timor-Leste and Zainichi Koreans, followed by a panel where youth in the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and the United States presented their activities to each other and discussed how to resolve various difficulties.

We pledge to remember and pass on the verdict of the Tribunal and the testimonies of survivors, resisting the "forced forgetting" by the Japanese government. We commit to continue to work toward the resolution sought by the survivors.

December 12, 2020
On behalf of all participants
International Symposium on the 20th Anniversary of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal 

Download draft declaration