The United Nations Committee Against Torture echoes the concerns of the OMCT and AJWRC, highlighting a need for increased education and responsiveness to Women’s Rights Issues in Japan
Geneva-Tokyo, 22 May 2007 – The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) recently concluded its 38th session in Geneva. While in session on 9 and 10 May, CAT considered the initial report of the State of Japan in relation to its compliance with the Convention against Torture. The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center (AJWRC), collaboratively presented an alternative report to CAT to be considered alongside the State report. CAT received this alternative report warmly and adopted many of its observations and recommendations on 18 May.
In the consideration of gender-based violence and trafficking in Japan, the Committee’s recommendations lined up with those of the OMCT and AJWRC, finding large deficiencies with the State laws which define violence against women and the actual measures which address trafficking in Japan, combined with a pattern of official failure to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes of violence. CAT’s recommendation that the State “adopt preventive measures to combat sexual violence and violence against women, including domestic violence and gender-based violence,” makes a great stride forward in putting the focus on the gender-specific nature of these crimes of violence.
In recommending a gender-focused approach to these situations and the provision of “better protection and appropriate care for such victims,” the Committee addresses concerns that past efforts by officials were too focused on the crime and criminal, while ignoring the victim’s needs in aftermath of the often traumatizing ordeals they have been through. In many instances this led to “victims of trafficking be[ing] treated as illegal immigrants and deported without redress or remedy.”
Importantly, the Committee found that “both education (...) and remedial measures (…) are themselves a means of preventing further violation of the State party’s obligations.” More specifically, the Committee found that education regarding human rights, particularly the rights of women and children, is inadequate as it currently exists in Japan. Going even further, the Committee took the unprecedented step of recommending that the State of Japan provide this education “to address the discriminatory roots of sexual and gender-based violations, and provide rehabilitative measures to victims.” In this respect, CAT recommends that “all categories of law enforcement personnel, as well as judges and immigration officials, should be regularly trained on the human rights implications of their work, with a particular focus [on] torture and children and women’s rights.”
The Committee also made a point to express concern about the fact that acts which amount to torture and ill treatment continue to be subject to statutes of limitation. The Committee found this particularly disconcerting in the cases of the military sexual slavery or “comfort women” system from World War II, noting that for victims of these crimes the remedies remain inadequate, and are sometimes in and of themselves detrimental, perpetuating further harm. CAT states that the survivors of the military sexual slavery “experience continuing abuse and re-traumatisation as a result of the State party’s official denial of the facts, concealment or failure to disclose other facts, failure to prosecute those criminally responsible for acts of torture, and failure to provide adequate rehabilitation to the victims and survivors.” While the Japanese Government does officially recognize some moral responsibility in these crimes, they refuse to recognize any form of legal responsibility, and as such do not prosecute the perpetrators or in anyway adequately redress their victims.
In yet another instance of failure to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes, the Committee expressed concern about the State’s lack of action concerning violence against women and girls by military personnel, including foreign personnel stationed in military bases in Japan. In agreement with the OMCT and AJWRC, the Committee directs that the State “should ensure all victims can claim redress before courts of law, including victims of foreign military personnel stationed in military bases.”
According to the UN body, these actions (and failure to act) clearly contravene several provisions of the Convention against Torture, ratified by Japan in 1999. The OMCT and AJWRC, and Japan women’s rights groups as a whole, are encouraged by the Committee’s firm stance against these violations and urge the competent authorities to implement the recommendations issued by CAT. It is of particular importance that the incumbent administration immediately changes its attitude and policy regarding gender-equality education and redress for the survivors of the comfort women system so as to comply with the State of Japan’s international obligations.
AJWRC – Hisako Motoyama: firstname.lastname@example.org / +81-3-3780-5245
OMCT – Mariana Duarte: email@example.com / +41 22 809 49 39
Background information and documentation
General information on CAT’s 38th session – see http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/cats38.htm
Full text of CAT’s Concluding Observations on Japan – see http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/AdvanceVersions/CAT.C.JPN.CO.1.doc
OMCT and AJWRC alternative report – see
 This report was drafted by the OMCT and AJWRC in collaboration with Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons, Kalakasan - Migrant Women Empowerment Center, National Shelters Network, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism-Japan Committee (IMADR-JC), Okinawa Women Act Against, Military Violence, SWASH – Sex Work and Sexual Health, Warriors Japan, and Violence Against Women in War Network-Japan (VAWW-Net Japan).