Subject: Petition on the Japanese Military's Sexual Slavery System in Timor-Leste (final)

Petition on the Japanese Military's Sexual Slavery System in Timor-Leste (final)


The following petition was supported by:

318 individuals (Japan: 270, overseas: 48)

36 organizations (Japan: 32, overseas: 4)

Akihisa Matsuno

Japan East Timor Coalition


Petition to the Governments of Japan and Timor-Leste For Timor-Leste Victims of the Japanese Military's Sexual Slavery System

Restore Their Honor, Give Them Their Rights!

February 20, 2008 (Sixty-six years from the day of the Japanese invasion of Timor)

We are citizens asking that a thorough investigation be carried out of the "sexual slavery system" that existed throughout Timor-Leste during the Japanese military occupation in World War II and that the victims be redressed.

On February 20, 1942 the Japanese Army invaded the then neutral territory of Portuguese Timor and then occupied it for some three and a half years. During that time the Japanese Army ordered the liurai (traditional chiefs) and village chiefs to provide women, and it built "comfort stations" in areas throughout the territory where its troops were stationed. Liurai who did not obey these orders were executed, and the families or neighbors of the women who tried to shelter them were brutalized. Women were conscripted regardless of the their age; even premenstrual girls were forced to become "comfort women".

The damage from this sexual violence did not end with the occupation. After the troops left, some women were left by their husbands, others suffered from infertility, others were left with the offspring of Japanese men, while others were discriminated against by their communities. But after the war under Portuguese, and then Indonesian rule, this serious crime was shrouded in historical obscurity and the victims left to their fate. No one so much as even apologized to the women: not the Japanese Government, which is responsible for the conduct of its military, not the Portuguese Government, which failed to protect the women from the Japanese military, not the Timorese who handed the victims over to the Japanese, and not those who scorned and abused them after the war.

However the women's suffering has come to light through research jointly carried out by Japanese and Timor-Leste organizations since 2000, Sixteen women who testified in the course of this research on the suffering they themselves endured are requesting an apology and compensation from the Japanese Government. Every year Japanese citizens' groups have met with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey the women's request to the Japanese Government. But the Japanese Government, on the grounds that it has had "no request from the Timor-Leste Government", has to date taken no steps whatsoever, merely saying that when diplomatic relations were established with the newly independent state that both countries agreed to pursue "future-oriented relations".

The victims are now old and have little time left. The year before last year Esmeralda Boe passed away, and last year, Marta Abu Bere and Clementina Cardoso. With this in mind, we submit the following request to the Government of Japan and the Government of Timor-Leste to restore the honor of the victims and give them their rights.

- The fact that there has been "no request from the Timor-Leste Government" is no excuse. This is a matter in which the Japanese Government should take it upon itself to apologize and compensate for the criminal actions of its own military.

- The Japanese Government should without delay mobilize all the available data and acknowledge the damage.

The Japanese Government should formally apologize without delay to restore the dignity of the victims.

- The Japanese Government should open discussions with the new government in Timor Leste, the victims, and relevant organizations to consider means of compensating the victims.

- Some Timorese fear that any reference to Japan's wartime responsibility would jeopardize Japan's economic assistance to Timor Leste. Japan's economic power intimidates tiny Timor-Leste, and the Japanese Government should clearly state that development assistance will not be linked to the issue of wartime compensation.

- The Government of Timor-Leste has the duty to uphold the rights of its citizens vis-a-vis other countries. Timor Leste is a sovereign independent nation. After the war the Japanese Government paid official compensation to the Asian victim countries, including Indonesia. The new government of Timor-Leste should promptly hold discussions with the war victims and related organizations and open negotiations with the Japanese Government.

The charges made over the last 18 years by "comfort women" victims in the countries of Asia have given rise to a social movement throughout the region and moved public opinion worldwide. Last year resolutions on the "comfort women" issue were adopted in the U.S. House of Representatives (July 31), the Dutch Second Chamber (November 21), the Canadian House of Commons (November 28), and the European Parliament (December 13), calling for a change in the Japanese Government's policy on the issue. We earnestly request that the Government of Japan and the Government of Timor-Leste take sincere consideration of these developments and take the decision to address the issue in a just manner.

East Timor Japan Coalition - Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Shinshu, Nagoya, Osaka, Okayama, Shimonoseki, Oita, Nagasaki and the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace

see also: Background on Sexual Violence Against East Timorese Women During the Japanese Occupation

Back to February  menu

December 2007
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu