The Tokyo District Court on Friday rejected claims by 46 former “comfort women” from the Philippines who were seeking compensation from the Japanese government for forcing them to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War II.Presiding Judge Yoriaki Ichikawa of the Tokyo District Court dismissed the suit, invalidating the plaintiffs’ argument that they are entitled to individual compensation based on international laws that regulated behavior of military forces at that time.Eighteen of the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in April 1993, while 28 others joined in five months later. They were demanding 20 million yen each in damages from the government for their mental suffering.Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they will appeal the case to a higher court. During the Imperial Japanese Army’s wartime occupation of the Philippines, the troops abducted the women — many of whom were still teens at the time — confined them in local army posts and repeatedly raped them, according to the plaintiffs.In the five years since the lawsuit was filed, seven of the plaintiffs, mostly in their late 60s and 70s, have died, according to their lawyers.The ruling was the second out of six lawsuits filed against the government by victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery. Plaintiffs include women from South Korea, the Philippines, China, the Netherlands and a Korean resident in Japan.In contrast with the first ruling in April by the Yamaguchi District Court, however, Friday’s Tokyo District Court decision was a total defeat for the plaintiffs. The court refused to even confirm if the women suffered the damage they claim they did, supporting the defendant’s argument that individual victims of war do not have a right to demand redress from a state.In most of some 40 ongoing war compensation suits filed against Japan by its foreign victims, Tokyo has refused to enter a plea on individual cases, asserting that individuals have no legal basis to seek governmental redress and invalidating the claims.The government also has argued in court that it cannot be held accountable for Japan’s actions under the Meiji Constitution, which did not have a law to compensate victims who suffered from illegal acts of the state.Friday’s ruling was in line with the government’s stance. The court also held that the plaintiffs’ rights to seek redress had already expired under the Japanese Civil Code.The ruling drew immediate protests from plaintiffs and their supporters. “If I only knew this was the judgment (that was going to be) given to me, I wouldn’t have wasted my time coming here,” plaintiff Tomasa Salinog, 69, told a news conference soon after the ruling.Salinog tearfully added that during the five years of proceedings, she endured the agony of having to recount her traumatic experience in court, only in vain. “I have put in so much effort … We can’t accept the decision.”The plaintiffs’ lawyers had based their claims on international treaties as well as domestic laws of the Philippines and Japan, including the Hague Convention of 1907. In an attempt to establish the government’s obligation to pay damages to the victims based on the convention, the lawyers called a Dutch legal expert to the courtroom.Frits Kalshoven, professor emeritus at the University of Leiden, testified in June last year that Article 3 of the convention clearly implies, although it does not spell out, that individuals have the right to be compensated by nations whose military forces have violated rules of war.The plaintiffs’ lawyers also presented papers written by a Filipino clinical psychologist that said the women continue to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder because of their wartime experience.Indai Lourdes Sajor, international liaison officer for Malaya Lolas, a group for victims of rapes and sexual slavery by wartime Japanese soldiers, also expressed disappointment that the court did not touch on the specific sufferings of the victims. “I was hoping for at least a profound indictment — that it (the court) would recognize rape as a war crime,” Sajor said. “It really is a travesty of justice.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.