TOKYO – Legal experts and activists opened a mock tribunal Friday on Japan’s wartime policy of forcing women to work in military brothels, providing sex to soldiers.
About 80 women were expected to testify over four days about their experiences at a symbolic tribunal in a Tokyo assembly hall. A body of about 30 legal experts was to reach a verdict next week.
The women, from North and South Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, East Timor and the Netherlands, are demanding an official apology from Japan and compensation.
Pak Yong-sim, 78, of South Korea, said she was forced into a brothel when she was 17 and worked there for seven years. A photograph displayed in the hall showed her pregnant, but she said she lost the baby because she was raped by Japanese soldiers.
“Every day, tens of Japanese soldiers came to us and we were forced to provide services and even had to cook food for them,” she said in videotaped testimony.
Historians say Japan forced about 200,000 women to work in military brothels during World War II. Tokyo has acknowledged the policy, but has refused to provide official compensation or an official apology to individuals.
The tribunal was not a legal proceeding, and there was no defense team for the accused, including the late Emperor Hirohito, military leaders and Cabinet ministers who led Japan’s colonial march through Asia.
Organizers said they invited Japanese government officials to put together their own team, but got no response.
Patricia Sellers, among the legal experts hearing the case and a legal adviser for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said the proceedings would break new ground.
“There is one aspect that I understand will be quite new, and that is the accusation of Emperor Hirohito,” she said, adding that he was never prosecuted in the trials of Japanese war criminals after World War II.
Earlier this week, Japanese courts handed down verdicts on two separate cases involving sex slaves, ruling in both cases that reparations were not needed because such issues were dealt with in postwar treaties and the statute of limitations had passed.
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