Take full blame for scandal of wartime ‘comfort women’, UN urges Japan
UN demands independent inquiry into scandal of 'comfort women', calling on Japan to stop its denials and to refrain from defaming victims
The United Nations has called on Japan to accept full blame for pressing women from Korea and other Asian nations into sexual slavery in the second world war.
"We want Japan to make the kind of statement that the families and the women themselves - the few who are still surviving - can recognise as an unambiguous, uninhibited acceptance of total responsibility," said Nigel Rodley, head of the UN Human Rights Committee.
In a report issued after a hearing on Japan's human rights record on Thursday, the committee said it was time for a wide-ranging inquiry.
"What's important for the committee is that it is indeed a true, independent, effective and impartial investigation," said Cees Flinterman, its deputy chairman.
"That would mean that the Japanese government could also involve outsiders, non-Japanese, that could help strengthen the independence. It could be the way forward," he said.
The committee said victims and their families should be given access to justice and that all evidence should be disclosed.
It said Japanese school textbooks must deal with the issue frankly and that the denial and defamation of victims should be roundly condemned.
About 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also China, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Asian countries, were forced to work in Japanese military brothels as "comfort women".
The victims have failed to obtain redress for their treatment despite repeated efforts in the decades since the war.
Japanese courts have dismissed claims for reparation and rejected calls for criminal probes, citing the passing of the statute of limitations.
Japan issued a landmark apology in 1993 - known as the Kono Statement - and mainstream public opinion holds that the wartime government was culpable.
But lawmakers on the political right, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, continue to cast doubt, claiming the brothels were staffed by professional prostitutes.
Japan recently held a review of the issue which upheld the apology, but asserted there was no evidence to corroborate the women's testimony, causing further regional anger.
"I suspect that the Kono Statement would have sufficed, had it not been for the fact that it has so evidently been put into question," said Rodley. Despite that, South Korea and Japan resumed high-level talks on the sensitive issue on Wednesday. Discussions had been suspended due to Tokyo's review.
The committee criticised the stance of Japan's delegation during a hearing two weeks ago.
It accused Japan of contradicting itself by denying that the women were forcibly deported to brothels, but also admitting they were recruited, transported and managed by coercion.
Rodley said that was a worse stance than in the committee's five previous hearings on Japan's record.
"What is troubling is that the delegation now seems to need to speak out of both sides of its mouth," he said.