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Tokyo High Court, “Statute of Limitations for Claim Expired”

Tokyo High Court, “Statute of Limitations for Claim Expired”

Posted December. 16, 2004 22:47,   


The Tokyo High Court turned down a claim for compensation filed by those who had been forced to serve as "comfort women" for the Japanese army during WWII, while acknowledging and authenticating that the Japanese troops had set up a facility where those women served. Tokyo newspaper reported on December 16 that the court ruled on December 15 against four Chinese ex-comfort women who filed a claim for 92 million yen, or 920 million won, in compensation and requested the Japanese government’s apology.

Plaintiffs claimed that all four of them, including a now 77-year-old, were abducted by Japanese soldiers who attacked their neighborhood and were repeatedly raped in the facility that the troops had set up near their base during the years from 1942 to 1944. They also asserted they are still haunted by painful memories since the confinement that lasted from six days at the shortest to five months at the longest.

The court acknowledged the existence of “comfort women” as a historical fact in its ruling that read, “Special facilities were set up at regions invaded by the Japanese troops where comfort women had to perform sexual service under the supervision of the Japanese military.”

In addition, it recognized the plaintiffs’ claim that the troops had kidnapped them including a little girl near their base in China and habitually raped them, who were forced to work as “comfort women.”

However, the Tokyo High Court declined to uphold the plaintiffs’ claim for compensation, citing an expired statute of limitations. The justices said, “China announced it would give up its right to claim war compensation in the joint declaration in 1972 when China and Japan normalized their diplomatic ties. However, it does not necessarily mean individuals of Chinese nationality should also give up their right to claim for compensation.” Yet, they went on to provide their reason for the ruling against the plaintiffs, saying, “Individuals’ claims for war compensation against a country cannot be found in the history of international common law, and their right to claim under Japanese civil law passed its statute of limitations by 20 years.”

After the issuance of the ruling, the plaintiffs, in a press interview, called on the Japanese government to “offer an apology now that the court acknowledged our claim as a historical fact,” adding, “The ruling is very unfavorable to us, and we shall appeal.” These Chinese comfort women who fell victim to the Japanese troops during the Second World War filed the case with the court in 1995 on the grounds that they continue to suffer from emotional pains caused by serial sexual assaults from unspecified Japanese soldiers during the war.

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com