GENEVA – A U.N. committee on discrimination urged Japan on Thursday to adopt a victim-centered approach toward “comfort women,” the women and girls forced to provide sex at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II, to ensure a lasting solution to the issue.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said in a report that government efforts to address the issue did “not take a fully victim-centered approach, that the surviving ‘comfort women’ were not adequately consulted” and that a 2015 agreement with the government of South Korea meant to permanently settle the matter “did not provide unequivocal responsibility for the human rights violations committed against these women.”
The Japanese delegation told the committee that both the Japanese and South Korean governments agreed the 2015 settlement resolved the matter “finally and irreversibly.”
Although the U.N. panel’s recommendations are not legally binding, they could become a fresh source of tension between the two countries, as South Korean President Moon Jae-in takes a critical view of the accord reached under his predecessor Park Geun-hye.
A Japanese government source said after the report was issued that Tokyo has been taking necessary measures in accordance with the 2015 agreement.
The committee also expressed concerns about violence against women in Okinawa, as well as military aircraft accidents in civilian areas of the prefecture.
For years, Okinawa Prefecture residents have complained about noise, crime and accidents linked to U.S. military bases there.
The committee called on Japan’s government to take action to properly protect the safety of the people of Okinawa, such as by ensuring the proper prosecution and conviction of base personnel who commit crimes.
The issue of hate speech and hate crimes was also raised, with the panel calling for the strengthening of the hate speech elimination law that came into force in Japan in 2016, as discrimination against ethnic minorities persists in the country.
The committee, a body of independent experts who monitor how countries implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, discussed issues involving Japan on Aug. 16 and 17, in the first such session since 2014.