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The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal
on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery
What is the Women's Tribunal?
"Our collective memory must be written indelibly in our history with our strongest condemnation." Aurora Javate de Dios, Prosecutor, the Philippines
"The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery" (the Women's Tribunal) was a people's tribunal organized by Asian women and human rights organizations and supported by international NGOs. It was set up to adjudicate Japan's military sexual violence, in particular the enslavement of "comfort women," to bring those responsible for it to justice, and to end the ongoing cycle of impunity for wartime sexual violence against women.
First proposed early in 1998, the Women's Tribunal(the Tokyo Tribunal) was held in Tokyo on 8-12 December 2000. Sixty-four survivors from nine countries and areas in the Asia-Pacific region took part. More than one thousand people from throughout the world, some from as far as Africa and South America, came to observe the Tribunal each day, along with more than three hundred media representatives. For the first three days, the Tribunal heard the testimonies of survivors, scholars in history, international law, and psychology, and two Japanese veterans. In addition, the court received the voluminous evidence submitted by the nine country prosecution teams and two chief prosecutors. On the fourth day, the Tribunal was in recess while the Judges deliberated, and a Public Hearing on Crimes against Women in Recent Wars and Conflicts was held in order to show how the failure to adjudicate past crimes has affected recent affairs. On the fifth day, 12 December 2000, the Tribunal issued its preliminary judgment, which found Emperor Hirohito guilty, and the State of Japan responsible, for the crimes of rape and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity.
It took a whole year for the Tribunal to render its Final Judgment. On 4 December 2001, the Final Judgment was issued in The Hague, the Netherlands, the "home of international law," to show the significance of the judgment to the whole world. More than 1000 paragraphs and 200 pages long, the Judgment discusses in full detail the factual findings of the Tribunal, and law applicable to the case. It finds all ten of the defendants accused in the Common Indictment guilty, either as individuals or as superiors, of crimes against humanity. In a case of mass rape in a Filipino village, the Judgment does not find Emperor Hirohito guilty as an individual, but only as a superior. The Judgment also makes detailed recommendations, not only to the Government of Japan but also to the former Allied nations, and to the United Nations and its member states. A copy of the Judgment was handed by the Judges to each of the survivors who attended the session to take back to her own people. The Judgment's two last paragraphs read as follows:
The Crimes committed against these survivors remain one of the greatest unacknowledged and unremedied injustices of the Second World War. There are no museums, no graves for the unknown "comfort woman", no education of future generations, and there have been no judgement days for the victims of Japan's military sexual slavery and the rampant sexual violence and brutality that characterized its aggressive war.
Accordingly, through this Judgment, this Tribunal intends to honor all the women victimized by Japan's military sexual slavery system. The Judges recognize the great fortitude and dignity of the survivors who have toiled to survive and reconstruct their shattered lives and who have faced down fear and shame to tell their stories to the world and testify before us. Many of the women who have come forward to fight for justice have died unsung heroes. While the names inscribed in history's page have been, at best, those of the men who commit the crimes or who prosecute them, rather than the women who suffer them, this Judgement bears the names of the survivors who took the stand to tell their stories, and thereby, for four days at least, put wrong on the scaffold and truth on the throne.
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