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COMMITTEE ON ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES CONSIDERS THE REPORT OF JAPAN

6 November 2018

GENEVA (6 November 2018) - The Committee on Enforced Disappearances today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Japan on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Presenting the report, Yoshifumi Okamura, Representative of the Government of Japan and Ambassador for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, stressed that since Japan had ratified the Convention, no criminal conduct with the involvement of the Government of Japan that comprised all three constitutive elements of enforced disappearance had been committed under Japanese control.  Platforms focusing on sanctioning and prevention of enforced disappearances already existed in Japanese legislation. Unfortunately, enforced disappearances had been reported throughout the world. The abductions of Japanese citizens by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were of great concern for the Government and it had identified 17 such cases in the 1970s and the 1980s. Only five persons had been able to return home. In order to universalize the criminalization of enforced disappearances, including abductions, it was indispensable to gain the understanding and cooperation of the international community. Indeed, increasing the number of States parties was a pressing issue. The Government of Japan was making steadfast efforts to promote the universal ratification of the Convention. For example, Japan was active in conducting outreach activities to encourage non-States parties, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, to ratify the Convention, including by making recommendations at the Universal Periodic Review sessions.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts observed that under the Penal Code there was no clear system of exception for the derogation of rights, and they wondered whether the State party would consider introducing an autonomous crime of enforced disappearance. The Experts further noted that there were no explicit guarantees against punishment for persons who refused to obey orders or instructions that prescribed, authorized or encouraged enforced disappearance. The Experts further inquired about the definition of enforced disappearance and of victims of that crime, jurisdiction in the crime of enforced disappearance, establishing aggravating and mitigating circumstances in line with the Convention provisions, the statute of limitations, double jeopardy,  reciprocity in requests for extradition, inclusion of the crime of enforced disappearance in all extradition treaties with other countries, and training on enforced disappearances for judges, prosecutors, correction officers, police and military officials. Other issues raised included Japan’s non-acceptance of article 31 of the Convention, guarantees for victims to lodge complaints under article 12 of the Convention, dialogue with civil society, comfort women, independent visits to places of detention, the substitute prison system and detention without judicial review, registries of detention facilities, migration detention, the right to truth by victims, abduction of children, and compensation for victims.

In her concluding remarks, Milica Kolaković-Bojović, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Japan, thanked the delegation for their comprehensive answers, which had contributed to the Committee’s understanding of Japan’s legal framework and implementation of the Convention.

Moncef Baati, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Japan, added that the dialogue had been rich and that the conduct of the delegation had been highly professional. The dialogue had been a fruitful one for both parties.

On his part, Mr. Okamura expressed his genuine gratitude for the opportunity to have an intensive dialogue with the Committee. The Government of Japan would continue to strive to make the crime of enforced disappearance fully recognized by the international community.

Suela Janina, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and wished it a safe trip back home.

The delegation of Japan included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Secretariat of the Headquarters for the Abductions Issues, Cabinet Secretariat and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.


The Committee will next meet in public today at 3 p.m., to begin its consideration of the initial report of Portugal (CED/C/PRT/1).


Report

The initial report of Japan can be read here: CED/C/JPN/1.

Presentation of the Report

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA, Representative of the Government of Japan and Ambassador for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, at the outset, recognized the Committee’s efforts to resolve the issue of enforced disappearances and stressed that since the ratification of the Convention in 2009, no criminal conduct with the involvement of the Government of Japan that comprised all three constitutive elements of enforced disappearance under article 2 of the Convention had been committed under Japanese control. Platforms focusing on sanctioning and preventing enforced disappearances already existed in the legislation and the Government was resolute in its will to ensure that no such case should ever occur in Japan. Enforced disappearance was an extremely serious human rights violation, Mr. Okamura said, regretting that cases were being reported throughout the world.

While Japan had never experienced cases of enforced disappearances involving its own Government, it had nevertheless suffered the abductions of its nationals and therefore it fully understood the suffering of the victims. Mr. Okamura recalled the determination to resolve the problem of enforced disappearances and bring all the Japanese abductees back to Japan, that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had expressed at the seventy-third session of the United Nations General Assembly. The abductions of Japanese citizens by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were a great concern - 17 such cases had been identified in the 1970s and the 1980s and only five persons had returned home, he said.

The understanding and cooperation of the international community was indispensable in order to universalize the criminalization of enforced disappearances, including abductions. The Convention was beneficial in affirming that enforced disappearance was a crime, that perpetrators should be punished, and that it was important to prevent recurrence of such crimes in the future; and it was significant in attracting international attention to the issue of enforced disappearances, including abductions. That was why Japan had signed the Convention on 6 February 2007, becoming the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so.

Japan was fully aware of the Committee’s commitment of 2017 to double the number of States parties to the Convention within five years, and agreed that increasing the number of States parties was indeed a pressing issue. The Government of Japan was making steadfast efforts to promote the universal ratification of the Convention: it was actively conducting outreach activities to encourage non-States parties, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, to ratify the Convention, including by making recommendations at the Universal Periodic Review sessions, and had co-sponsored the international seminar on enforced disappearances in Strasbourg in February 2018.

Mr. Okamura highlighted that there had been a Japanese member on the Committee since its inauguration, and said that, although the Committee members were independent Experts, Japan, as a country that was tirelessly promoting human rights diplomacy, greatly valued the fact that the Japanese experts contributed their expertise and experience in the area of international human rights law to the Committee. In 2018, Japan had been providing voluntary contributions to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in support of initiatives on the protection of people from enforced disappearance, Mr. Okamura said, expressing hope that those contributions would be effectively utilized for the activities of the Committee towards the universalization of the Convention.

Questions from the Committee Experts

MILICA KOLAKOVIĆ-BOJOVIĆ, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Japan, positively noted Japan’s comprehensive replies to the list of issues, and inquired about consultations with civil society and families of the victims in the preparation of the report, noting that in the process of self-evaluation, inclusiveness and transparency were a guarantee of objectivity. In the absence of a national human rights institution, how was this task coordinated? What were Japan’s intentions concerning the establishment of a national human rights institution?

Turning to the non-derogability of the prohibition of enforced disappearances, the Co-Rapporteur asked about the concrete legal provisions that guaranteed the inviolability of this right. Enforced disappearance was not an autonomous crime in the legislation nor was it recognized as a crime against humanity; instead, there were numerous crimes that contained some aspects and elements of enforced disappearances. How was the refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or the concealment of the fate and the whereabouts of the disappeared person, punished under domestic legislation? Fighting impunity for the crime of enforced disappearance was an imperative – in this sense, would Japan consider introducing an autonomous crime of enforced disappearance in the legislation as a way to bridge all the existing legal gaps?

Another concern was that this extremely serious crime was not consistently and adequately sanctioned, as the penalties varied from three months to a life in prison. How would the State party establish penalties that took into account the extreme seriousness of enforced disappearances, especially in the absence of an autonomous crime, and how did it intend to establish aggravating and mitigating circumstances in line with the Convention provisions?

There were no explicit guarantees in the law that protected from punishment those persons who refused to obey their superiors’ orders or instructions that prescribed, authorized, or encouraged enforced disappearance. What remedies were available to subordinates against any potential disciplinary measures resulting from their refusal to carry out a criminal act ordered by a superior? How did Japan comply with the Convention provisions with respect to the criminal responsibility of superiors? The Co-Rapporteur remarked that the statute of limitations was too short - five to 20 years since the crime had occurred – and as such did not reflect the gravity of the crime.

When would the documents concerning the enforced disappearances of comfort women be disclosed?

MONCEF BAATI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Japan, commended Japan’s high-level political commitment to the Convention and its universal ratification, and regretted the lack of a legal commitment, evident in the absence of a standalone legislation on enforced disappearance.

On the scope of the jurisdiction over the prosecution of the crime of enforced disappearance, the Co-Rapporteur asked whether article 4 of the Criminal Code was applicable to all who committed the act, regardless of the nationality of the author of the act or the nationality of the victim; whether double jeopardy was permitted; and whether the crime had to be punished in the country in which it was committed. The delegation was further asked about the criteria governing the extradition request and the applicability of the principle of reciprocity, particularly if the human rights situation in a country gave rise to the suspicion that the extradited person might be forcibly disappeared. Would Japan include the crime of enforced disappearance in all extradition treaties with other countries?

In the absence of a judicial decision, what was the basis for provisional detention, the Co-Rapporteur asked, requesting the delegation to explain the list of documents necessary to authorise such detention, especially if a foreign fugitive was involved. If a judicial decision against the fugitive was passed in foreign jurisdiction, would it be considered as final by the Japanese authorities, or would the investigation continue?

Mr. Baati also asked whether Japan undertook an investigation into all suspected cases of enforced disappearance and even in the absence of a formal complaint, in the sense of article 12(2) of the Convention. The Co-Rapporteur took note of Japan’s position in which it reserved the right to refuse access if that access could undermine an important national interest and asked the delegation to explain how this position did not violate article 1 of the Convention. Given the total freedom given to the police to decide whether to undertake an investigation, what information was used to undertake an investigation and how did Japan ensure an effective and impartial inquiry in a timely manner?

The delegation was asked to inform on the training provided on enforced disappearances and to explain how double jeopardy was avoided in mutual assistance agreements with countries which were not parties to the Convention.

Other Experts remarked on the absence of a definition of enforced disappearance in line with article 2 of the Convention. They noted that Japan had recognized the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications in which a State party claimed that another State party was not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention, however, it had not accepted the Committee’s competence to receive and consider communications from individuals. Could the delegation comment on this?

Replies by the Delegation

Responding to questions raised on the participation of civil society in the preparation of the report, the delegation explained that this dialogue had been conducted in line with the Government’s open-door policy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a web page which was open to any comments and opinions from the public, a delegate said, noting as an example a submission of comments by the Japanese Bar Association concerning Japan’s dialogue with the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.  The authorities had also held meetings with civil society organizations upon their request.

It was true that Japan did not have a national institution for human rights, and the Government was considering a human rights remedy system while taking into consideration the state of discussions to date.

Concerning the definition of enforced disappearance, the Penal Code covered that crime in line with the Convention. While it did not appear as a standalone crime, and there was no provision on enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity, the law did define multiple crimes, such as unlawful capture or confinement, kidnapping, buying or selling of human beings. Since these multiple crimes did not require refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or the concealment of the fate and the whereabouts of the disappeared person as its constituent elements, prosecutors did not need to prove these elements to hold perpetrators accountable.

The penalties for the crime of enforced disappearance ranged depending on the category of crimes and their seriousness, continued the delegation, explaining that the maximum statutory penalties ranged from 10 to 20 years in most serious cases, for example, if an injury or death occurred as a result of unlawful capture or confinement, the sentence would go up to be 10 or 20 years. Superiors’ responsibility was covered by the Penal Code in line with the Convention, they said, noting that national legislation clearly stipulated that subordinates did not have to obey their superiors’ illegal orders and that such individuals would not be subjected to any administrative sanctions.

Turning to aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the delegation clarified that aggravating circumstances applied whenever a State agent arbitrarily detained a person. Judges took into consideration all circumstances and there were no statutory standards in sentencing. The Convention did not require the State party to abolish the statute of limitations for victims to seek remedy, said the delegate, adding that the statute of limitation for tort was 20 years.  The delegate also noted that the criminal statute of limitation was proportionate to the extreme seriousness of enforced disappearance. The delegate noted that no formal complaint was necessary to initiate an investigation.  A judicial police officer should investigate when he or she deemed any crime was committed.
The delegate said judges, prosecutors or judicial police officers may coerce the execution of search or seizure warrants by force when facing the refusal to cooperate with them.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA, Representative of the Government of Japan and Ambassador for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, noted that it was not appropriate for the Committee to take up the issue of the so-called comfort women because it predated the entry into force of the Convention in 2010, and reiterated that no complaint against the Government of Japan under article 12 of the Convention, including in relation to comfort women, had been raised to date. Since the early 1990s, Japan had conducted full-scale fact-finding studies on the issue of comfort women, which included research and investigation of related documents held by various governmental agencies and ministries, document searches at the United States National Archives and Records Administration, and hearings of relevant individuals, including former military parties and managers of “comfort stations” and the analysis of testimonies collected by the Korean Council, a non-governmental organization. The forceful taking away of comfort women by the military and Government authorities could not be confirmed in any of the documents in those studies, said the head of the delegation, stressing that all the study results had been disclosed to the public and were accessible on the Internet, including on the website of the Asian Women’s Fund. There was no ground for the criticism that the Government of Japan was concealing any documents with regard to the issue of comfort women, Mr.  Okamura said, adding that the announcement of the results of the studies represented a sort of a closure on this issue.

Another delegate said that Japan had jurisdiction over acts of enforced disappearance committed on its own territory, as well as over such acts committed by or against Japanese nationals abroad. In addition, the delegate noted acts of enforced disappearance committed outside of Japan by a foreign national against a Japanese national could be prosecuted in Japan according to the Convention.  The crime of enforced disappearance was an extraditable offence under the all bilateral treaties Japan had concluded.

Japan did not provide training on enforced disappearances to members of Penal Institution Visiting Committees  in charge of conducting prison visits in order to preserve their independence, said a delegate, adding that those committees were authorized to collect any information they deemed necessary and that prison wardens were obliged to provide the periodical and requested information.

As for article 31 of the Convention on the competence of the Committee to receive individual communications, Japan was of the view that although the Government saw the individual communications system as significant to ensure effective implementation of the Convention, however, its acceptance required further deliberations due to the potential incompatibility with national judicial systems and legislative policies. The Government was currently examining the procedures for individual communications in all human rights treaty bodies, and did not maintain a fixed timeframe for the adoption of any decision in this regard.

Follow-up Questions

MILICA KOLAKOVIĆ-BOJOVIĆ, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Japan, asked how Japan exercised jurisdiction over the crime of enforced disappearance in the absence of a standalone crime of enforced disappearance, and bearing in mind that it only had two bilateral extradition agreements. The Co-Rapporteur also asked about the guarantees in place for all individuals to exercise the right to report alleged enforced disappearance to the competent authorities, and inquired about the appointment and independence of the committee that visited prisons.

MONCEF BAATI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Japan, noted that it was not clear from the delegation’s reply how article 31 of the Convention constituted interference into the State party’s judicial system, whereas article 32 did not. It was also not clear how the training of investigators visiting prisons, including on the issue of enforced disappearance, violated their independence.

Other Experts observed that the definition of enforced disappearance needed to contain a description of a specific conduct leading to enforced disappearance rather than a list of different related crimes, and remarked that the non-criminalization of enforced disappearance either as an autonomous crime or a crime against humanity pointed to an inconsistency in Japan’s legal system. What guarantees were there for victims to lodge a complaint under article 12 of the Convention?

SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, reminded that the Committee had affirmed in 2013 that it did not exercise competence over the cases that had taken place prior to the entry into force of the Convention in any State party, and said that, because of the continuous nature of the crime of enforced disappearance, the Committee’s competence was not bound by the statute of limitation.

Replies by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation reiterated that the interpretation of the definition of enforced disappearance as provided in article 2 of the Convention was covered in Japanese legislation.

Dual criminality was secured since the crime of enforced disappearance was fully covered by Japanese criminal codes.  Therefore, the bilateral treaties on extradition assistance with the United States and the Republic of Korea would not be hindered due to dual criminality on the Japanese side. The delegation also noted that bilateral treaties were not necessary for extradition and mutual legal assistance since Japan did not require treaties as prerequisite.  National jurisdiction was established when an act of enforced disappearance was committed on Japanese territory,  when the act committed involved a Japanese national either as an author of the crime or its victim, and when neither perpetrators nor victims were Japanese nationals.

The members of Boards of Visitors for Penal Institutions were appointed by the Minister of Justice from among persons of integrity and insight with a passionate interest in the improvement of the administration of penal institutions, and they could be attorneys,  doctors, or local residents. Article 31 of the Convention stipulated that all domestic remedies needed to be exhausted before an individual could submit a complaint to the Committee, the delegation reminded.

The delegation explained that under the Criminal Procedure Code, the statute of limitation commenced at the time when the criminal act had ceased, which, in case of enforced disappearances, meant that the statutory limitation started once the action had finished. If the offender was outside of Japan, the statute of limitation was suspended for the duration of the absence from Japan.

The training for prosecutors, judges and correction officers covered human rights treaties, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Training courses for newly appointed prosecutors were being provided every year, twice a year for prosecutors who were in service for three to five years, and every year for older serving prosecutors serving for seven to ten years.

The delegation reiterated that the right of victims to demand reparation ended 20 years from the time of the tortious act. Judges systematically received training on international human rights instruments, as part of their continued education. The quality of the training was ensured by qualified State officials, leading scholars as well as by invited United Nations functionaries.

Questions by the Committee Experts

MILICA KOLAKOVIĆ-BOJOVIĆ, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Japan, inquired about the substitute prison system in which police cells were used instead of prison units, with detention lasting up to 23 days and with limited access to lawyers, lack of bail, and of an independent inspection and complaint mechanism. There were examples of detention that could last from six months to one year without judicial review. Did Japan intend to eliminate such detention?

What was the situation of persons deprived of liberty in medical institutions and migration facilities? Japan had several parallel registries of detention facilities. How were those registries monitored? When it came to migration detention, it seemed that it was the obligation of detainees to inform their families or relatives about their detention rather than the obligation of the State.

Ms. Kolaković-Bojović asked for more information about the database of genetic information and whether it was used to search for disappeared persons. Was training on enforced disappearances provided to police officers and military personnel?

MONCEF BAATI, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Japan, asked whether the State party intended to revise articles of the Penal Code to bring them in line with the Convention with respect to categories of victims of enforced disappearances. How did the State party ensure that the right to know should address the circumstances of the disappearance and the results of the inquiry into it? 

Why was the scope of reparation limited only to the mother and father of the victim? Did victims’ associations benefit from the Government’s material resources?

What was the legislative text that criminalized the abduction of children? Was there an emergency search mechanism for disappeared children? Was there a procedure for overturning the adoption of disappeared children?

Replies by the Delegation

When it came to the right of detainees to receive visits, the delegation explained that the defence counsel may visit and consult with detainees during criminal proceedings, while judges might impose some restrictions on visits by the family or relatives. Detainees could see lawyers without the presence of any State official. Judicial remedies were guaranteed to all detainees.

As for the substitute detention system, detainees could meet their lawyers without the presence of the facility staff, including on weekends and at night. In 2017, 582,000 such visits had taken place. In Japan police detention facilities were normally used to accommodate suspects. Accordingly, it was not easy to eliminate their use. All defendants were eligible for bail, but there was no bail for pre-trial detention, which could last up to 10 days and could be renewed once.

The police limited the time of interrogations, which were video-taped. Interrogations were voluntary, and inspections were carried out by Public Safety Committees, which could receive any complaints.

Turning to access to information, the delegation clarified that in criminal proceedings family members could gain information about deprivation of liberty. Regarding Article 22 of the Convention, there were two institutional frameworks to punish officials’ misconduct and abuse of power: administrative and criminal measures. The same applied to official misconduct and abuse of power in immigration detention facilities.

Compulsory hospitalization was decided for persons who wanted to injure themselves or others due to mental illness. If such a person was not happy with that decision, he or she could appeal the decision to the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, and also could file an action for the revocation of the decision in court.

As for the database of genetic information, the delegation explained that regardless of the existence of a prior report on a missing person, the police would conduct additional search of a particular missing person, including through cross referencing the database.

The country’s extensive judicial and administrative framework provided adequate safeguards for the deprivation of liberty. The State party did not limit persons’ right to access information in migration detention.

The delegation emphasized that in civil cases any person was entitled to receive compensation for enforced disappearance, including for mental harm. When a victim died, his or her heir could receive reparation. The Criminal Procedure Law, on the other hand, limited the right to participate in the criminal proceeding to victims and certain family members in order to avoid potential conflict of interest between the victim and his/her family members.  However, as the matter of practice, prosecutors did their best to provide information to family members regarding the criminal proceedings with the consent of the victim.  Accordingly, the State party had no intention of revising its definition of victims. On the victims of abduction by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan had passed special laws to support those affected. The people who received support were accompanying spouses, children and grandchildren of the abducted persons.

The victim support systems were in place through support consultation and hotlines in the public prosecutors’ office, access to the related documents, and attendance at trials with prosecutors.  The Police had similar victim support systems as well, including Benefit Systems for Crime Victims. Through such systems, the Government had provided financial benefit to crime victims who had become seriously disabled or ill, or to the families of crime victims who had been killed as a result of intentional criminal acts, such as murder; to help alleviate mental suffering and financial damage.

The delegation stressed the distinction between criminal and civil proceedings, noting that enforced disappearance was prosecuted under criminal proceedings. In case of the death of the victim, the family and relatives would be granted to receive benefits and reparation. Reparation was not limited to only his/her father or mother.  Japan did its best to timely investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of enforced disappearances.

As for special protection measures for children, the police would conduct a search and consult the database of genetic information if necessary. If they found the missing child, they would contact the family or guardians, and they would return them. The abduction of children was a crime. The delegation stressed that the adoption of disappeared children for the purpose to conceal his or her disappearance was null and void due to the lack of intent of adoption.

Police officials received general and specific training. The headquarters of each police prefecture also provided separate training on the management of detention facilities. International human rights instruments to which Japan was party to were also part of that training.

Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts

MILICA KOLAKOVIĆ-BOJOVIĆ, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Japan, reiterated her question about Japan’s plans to consolidate the registries of persons deprived of liberty. She further inquired about compensation awarded by the State when enforced disappearance had occurred.

What had been other actions by the State regarding the issue of comfort women, and what information was available about the removal of children born to comfort women?

Turning to the adjudication of disappearance, did it amount to the declaration of death? What procedures were in place to search for a missing person? Was there an urgent search procedure?

MONCEF BAATI, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Japan, asked about reparations from the State, and about the interpretation of the definitions of victims of enforced disappearance by judges or magistrates. Why were immigration centres not subject to follow-up recommendations by the visiting board?

An Expert asked how the reparation procedure arising from political decisions would unfold in practice. For example, how did it unfold following agreements with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea?

Another Expert inquired about the right to truth in the context of the issue of comfort women. How did the Government of Japan take into account the testimonies of surviving women? There were reports of physical attacks and hate speech against persons in Japan speaking out about the issue of comfort women.

Replies by the Delegation

Japan maintained registries of persons deprived of liberty depending on the nature of detention or crime, and those registries were accessible to judicial authority as necessary it had no plans to create a consolidated registry of persons deprived of liberty since registries of each detention facility were best serving their respective purpose. It was judges that decided on the adjudication of disappearance. In case of death, the heirs of the disappeared person were entitled to inherit compensation.

The Boards of Visitors of Inspections were able to state opinion to directors of immigration detention facilities, who then were obliged to make efforts to implement their opinions in the management of facilities, and to publicly disclose the board’s opinions.  Thus, all the communication and follow-up measures were open to public.

In order to protect victims of abduction by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Government of Japan provided them with monthly benefits, pensions, consultation services, as well as training for employment and educational assistance for their children. The Diet of Japan had passed a special law for the victims of abductions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Even though there had been no cases of enforced disappearances by a State agent, it had nothing to do with the interpretation of the definition of victims in criminal proceedings, the delegation stressed.  Judges had the ultimate power to interpret the definition of victims in the code of criminal procedure.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA, Representative of the Government of Japan and Ambassador for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, regretted that his previous statement on the issue of comfort women had not been understood. He reiterated that the Government of Japan had conducted a full-scale fact-finding study since the 1990s in order to establish the factual basis for that issue. The forceful taking away of comfort women by the military of the Government authorities could not be confirmed in any document.  Every single result of such study was disclosed to the public and accessible on the Internet such as on the website of the Asian Women’s Fund. Accordingly, there was no ground for claiming that the Government of Japan was concealing any documents or facts with respect to the so-called comfort women issue. The Government of Japan was of the view that the issue of property and claims had been legally settled by an agreement between the Republic of Korea and Japan in 1965.  Having said that, from a humanitarian perspective, the people and the Government of Japan had cooperated and together had established the Asian Women’s Fund.  The Fund had offered medical and welfare support from the Government of Japan, and provided “atonement money” from donations of the Japanese people.  When those programmes were implemented, a signed letter was sent by then-Prime Ministers expressing apologies and remorse to each victim in Asian countries, including the Republic of Korea.  As a result, 285 former comfort women (211 persons in the Philippines, 61 persons in the Republic of Korea, 13 persons in Taiwan) received funds.  In Indonesia, where there were difficulties in designating former comfort women by the Government of Indonesia and the Netherlands, and where no authorities could identify former comfort women at the time of the Fund’s establishment, the Fund had made dedicated efforts for programmes to offer medical care and welfare support.  While the Asian Women’s Fund was disbanded in March 2007, the Government of Japan would continue its effort to gain an understanding for the sincere feelings of the Government and people of Japan which were embodied in the projects of the Fund.  The Government of Japan would also continue its efforts to ensure that Japan’s views and efforts on the comfort women issue were properly recognized by the international community based on an objective understanding of relevant facts. Furthermore, in December 2015, the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of Korea had reached an agreement on this issue as a result of considerable diplomatic efforts.  Both countries confirmed that the comfort women issue was resolved ‘finally and irreversibly.’  The Government of the Republic of Korea had established a foundation for the purpose of providing support for the former comfort women, and the Government of Japan had contributed 1 billion yen to the Foundation in accordance with the agreement.  Among the 47 former comfort women who were alive at the time of the agreement, 36 had already agreed to the projects, of which 34 have actually received medical and welfare support.  The Japan-Republic of Korea agreement was not only confirmed between the two countries but was highly appreciated by the international community. It was of great importance that the agreement, including the aforementioned efforts, were steadily implemented.  There was misunderstanding on the comfort women issue and the belief that comfort women had been forcefully taken away was a fabricated story made in a book by Seiji Yoshida called “My War Crime”, which was published in 1983. The contents of the book had had a tremendous impact on the international community, but it was later proved to be entirely a product of his imagination.  In fact, a major newspaper company which reported this book as if it had been a true story later admitted to having published erroneous articles, and officially apologized for it to their readers.  Japan was of the view that the phrase “sexual slavery” was not appropriate because it contradicted the facts.  Japan had confirmed this point with the Republic of Korea at the time of the Japan-Republic of Korea agreement, and noted that the phrase “sexual slavery” was never used in the agreement.

Concluding Remarks

MILICA KOLAKOVIĆ-BOJOVIĆ, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Japan, thanked the delegation for their comprehensive answers, which had contributed to the Committee’s understanding of Japan’s legal framework and implementation of the Convention. Even though the delegation’s replies were not always entirely comprehensive, the dialogue had been constructive.

MONCEF BAATI, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Japan, added that the dialogue had been rich and that the conduct of the delegation had been highly professional. The dialogue had been a fruitful one for both parties.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA, Representative of the Government of Japan and Ambassador for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, expressed his genuine gratitude for the opportunity to have an intensive dialogue with the Committee. The process of protection and promotion of human rights was a long process for all countries. The Government of Japan had done its utmost to sincerely answer all the Committee’s questions, and it would strive to make the crime of enforced disappearance fully recognized by the international community.

SUELA JANINA, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and wished it a safe trip back home.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CED18.08E