Chinese Comfort Women v. Japan

 

Chinese Comfort Women: (1st Group)

Filed: August 7, 1995

Fourteen Chinese filed two lawsuits with the Tokyo District Court on August 7, 1995 demanding ¥220 million in damages from the Japanese government over atrocities committed during the 1937 Sino-Japanese War.  These lawsuits were the first filed by Chinese war victims against the Japanese government.

Plaintiffs in the first lawsuit, represented by attorney Toshitaka Onodera, included four former comfort women forced to work at Japanese military brothels, relatives of Chinese killed in germ warfare experiments by the Japanese army, and victims of the 1937 Nanjing massacre.  One of the plaintiffs, Li Xiu Mei, alleged that she was kidnapped in the Chinese province of Shanxi at age 15 by Japanese soldiers and forced to work in a front-line brothel for about five months.  In addition to compensation, the five comfort women asked that the Japanese government publish its apologies in Japanese newspapers.

Plaintiffs in the second lawsuit included eight relatives of three people killed by germ warfare unit 731, one victim of the Nanjing massacre, and another victim of an air raid.  One plaintiff, Li Xiu Ying, claimed that she was seriously wounded by the Japanese army in December 1937 while pregnant, and subsequently suffered a miscarriage.

On May 30, 2001, the Tokyo District Court made a decision to dismiss the claims of 14 plaintiffs (no factual findings were made).  The court dismissed both lawsuits claiming that an individual had no right to sue a country for compensation.  In addition, the judge ruled that the reparations issue between the two nations was resolved by the Sino-Japanese Joint Communique, issued on 29 September 1972, which established their diplomatic ties.  The plaintiffs appealed to the Tokyo High Court in June 2001.

On December 15, 2004, the Tokyo High Court rejected the demands of the four former comfort women (the first lawsuit) for an official apology from the Japanese government and ¥22 million per victim for being forced to work at Japanese military brothels during the war.  The court made its decision based on the fact that the Japanese government has no responsibility and the statute of limitations had expired.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs said the victims would file an appeal with Japan’s Supreme Court.  Despite the dissatisfaction, the lawyer expressed some optimism for further lawsuits given two ruling points in this lawsuit: (1) the Tokyo High Court admitted the fact of sex persecution on the Chinese former comfort women and (2) the court gave up the excuse “individuals have no right to claim compensation” that was usually used by Japanese courts in terms of the issue of compensation.

On April 27, 2007, Both appeals of the 1st group and 2nd group of Chinese comfort women were rejected by the Supreme Court. It ruled that the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique bars Chinese individuals from seeking war compensation through the courts, and dismissed a claim for damages filed by Chinese people. Presiding Justice Nakagawa mentioned that renouncing the right means that “one cannot seek compensation in court, but the right is not completely eliminated,” suggesting that compensation could be settled outside court. (The Japanese text of the court’s rule Need to look for link)

The support group of the plaintiffs claims that there have been no compensation measures taken for Chinese comfort women after 1993’s Kono Statement, and demands the government to redress the injustice and human rights violation of Chinese victims as soon as possible. (The plaintiffs’ claims in Japanese Need to look for link)

 

Chinese Comfort Women: (2nd Group)

Filed: February 23, 1996

Two Chinese women (Guo Xicui and Hou Qiaolian) from Shanxi province filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government on February 23, 1996 with the Tokyo District Court seeking apology and a compensation of ¥20 million each.  The two women alleged that they were forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers when they were 13 and 15.  While the case was pending, Hou Qiaolian died in 1999 at the age of 70.

On March 29, 2002 the Tokyo District Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims (Japanese text of court’s decision). The presiding judge stated that: “We cannot admit any individual right to demand compensation from the state.”  Factual findings were made recognizing for the first time post-traumatic syndrome disorder as part of damage.

The plaintiffs appealed the decision.  The case continued on, and on March 18, 2005, the Tokyo High Court upheld the ruling of the Tokyo District Court, thereby rejecting the plaintiffs’ demands for a government apology and compensation. Furthermore, the high court ruled that the sexual assault against them was not systematically conducted or authorized by the Japanese government.

On April 27, 2007, Both appeals of the 1st group and 2nd group of Chinese comfort women were rejected by the Supreme Court. It ruled that the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique bars Chinese individuals from seeking war compensation through the courts, and dismissed a claim for damages filed by Chinese people. Presiding Justice Nakagawa mentioned that renouncing the right means that “one cannot seek compensation in court, but the right is not completely eliminated,” suggesting that compensation could be settled outside court. (The Japanese text of the court’s rule  Need to look for Link)

The support group of the plaintiffs claims that there have been no compensation measures taken for Chinese comfort women after 1993’s Kono Statement, and demands the government to redress the injustice and human rights violation of Chinese victims as soon as possible. (The plaintiffs’ claims in Japanese Need to look for link)

 

Women from Shan-xi Province, China

Filed: October 30, 1998

Nine Chinese women from China’s Shanxi Province, along with the family of a woman who is deceased, filed a law suit with the Tokyo District Court against the Japanese government on October 30, 1998.  The women accused the Japanese government of failing to provide compensation as prescribed under international laws and to enact laws to provide redress.  They asked for the compensation in the amount of ¥200 million in damages for being raped by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

The lawsuit stated that although the women were not forced into sexual slavery at wartime brothels as comfort women, soldiers of the former Imperial Japanese Army repeatedly raped them.  According to the indictment, Wan Aihua, and her fellow plaintiffs, were victims of rapes from 1941 to 1943.  The women ranged in age from teens to mid-twenties at the time the Japanese soldiers allegedly broke into the women’s houses, raped, and abducted them. The soldiers allegedly confined the women to houses they occupied and forced them to provide sex by beating and kicking them.  The lawsuit also stated that the rapes by the Imperial Japanese Army soldiers were systematic in China.

On April 24, 2003, Tokyo District Court dismissed the claims: factual findings were made and resolution through legislation recommended.  Although the court rejected the lawsuit, it urged the Japanese government to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs.  Presiding Judge Takaomi Takizawa stated that the Japanese government was fully capable of reaching a legislative or administrative settlement, as he found truth in plaintiffs’ claims that the 10 women were repeatedly raped and suffered severe aftershocks.  He accused the Japanese government of negligence in maintaining and keeping troop discipline stating that the soldiers engaged in dirty brutalities that were extremely outrageous, even though they were conducted during wartime.

While dismissing the lawsuit, the judge stated that, “We had no choice but to dismiss a judicial redress based on the application of law.”  The court supported the government’s claim that there was no law requiring it to compensate the women at the time, and that the plaintiffs’ right to claim under the Civil Code had expired because 20 years had passed since the rapes occurred.  It was the first time, however, that a Japanese court has called for a legislative or administrative settlement.

On May 8, 2003, the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Tokyo District Court. At the same time, they welcomed the court’s suggestion and expressed hope that the Japanese government would comply with it.

On March 31, 2005, the Tokyo High Court upheld the ruling of the Tokyo District Court, thereby rejecting the plaintiffs’ demands for a government apology and compensation.

The Supreme Court rejected their appeal on November 18, 2005.