Subject: Japan ET Coalition: Shadow Report to the CEDAW Committee
Regarding Timor-Leste’s Initial Periodic Report
Shadow Report to the CEDAW Committee Regarding Timor-Leste’s Initial Periodic Report
Japan East Timor Coalition
Address: c/o Osaka East Timor Association Kokubunji Bldg 6F, 1-7-14 Kokubunji, Kita-ku. Osaka-shi, 531-0064 JAPAN E-mail: email@example.com
17 July 2009
The Japan East Timor Coalition (formerly the Free East Timor! Japan Coalition [1988-2002]) is comprised of a number of citizen groups throughout Japan and the Japan Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace that are committed, among other issues, to working in solidarity with the people of Timor-Leste to realize justice for past human rights abuses in that country. These abuses include the enslavement of East Timorese women by the Japanese military during World War II as “comfort women.”1 State responsibility for this gross human rights violation clearly lies squarely with the Japanese government, and Japan’s ongoing failure to provide adequate redress to survivors has been noted by the CEDAW Committee 2 and numerous other international bodies and experts.3 Over the years we have lobbied the Japanese government to
1 Based on the memoirs and testimony of former Japanese soldiers, and on the testimony of 17 survivors and other witnesses collected as part of a joint research project carried out by our organization and the East Timorese human rights NGO HAK Association and others since 2000, we estimate that there were at least 20 villages/towns in which “comfort stations” were built in East Timor and an unknown number of local women and girls were forced to sexually serve Japanese troops. Other women and girls were used as the personal sex slaves of individual officers. In addition to the physical and mental harm inflicted on them during their enslavement, the “comfort women” experienced social stigmatization as survivors of sexual violence and as perceived “collaborators” with the Japanese after the war ended. Some were left with a “child of the Japanese army,” some were unable to marry, while others were abandoned by their husbands or found it impossible to have children due to the abuses they had suffered (see attached survivor testimonies).
2 Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its twenty-ninth session, A/58/38 (2003), paras 361-362; Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its fourteenth session, A/50/38 (1995), paras 633 & 635.
3 Most recently by: Letter from Felice Gaer (Rapporteur for Follow-up on Conclusions and Recommendations, Committee against Torture) to Shinichi Kitajima, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, 11 May 2009; the International Labour Organization’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (Individual Observation concerning Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), Japan, 2009, paras. 10-11); the Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR/C/JPN/CO/5,18 December 2008, para. 22); the Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council on the Universal Periodic Review (A/HRC/8/44, 30 May 2008, para. 60); the Committee against Torture (CAT/C/JPN/CO/1, 3 Aug. 2007, paras 12 & 24); and the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerence (E/CN.4/2006/16/Add.2, 24 January 2006, para. 59.
officially apologize to survivors and pay compensation, and we urge the CEDAW Committee to question the Japanese government on the measures it has taken to discharge its obligation under CEDAW to address this particular form of gender-based discrimination when scrutinizing Japan’s Sixth Periodic Report. However, in acceding to CEDAW, the Timor-Leste government has also undertaken the obligation to eliminate gender-based discrimination, which, as we argue below, requires it to publicly recognize and condemn the harms inflicted on East Timorese “comfort women” and take measures to redress these harms, although it has yet failed to do so.
For historical and geo-political reasons, East Timorese former “comfort women” are in a particularly disadvantageous position in terms of obtaining redress for the abuses inflicted on them. Firstly, the fact that East Timor remained a Portuguese colony after WWII and was under Indonesian military occupation from 1975 until 1999, when the East Timorese people voted for independence in a UN-sponsored referendum, meant that East Timorese “comfort women” were unable to raise their voices, or even become aware that other survivors were doing so, as early as survivors from other countries. Secondly, following independence, the Timor-Leste government has prioritized good relations with the Japanese government and has therefore refused to take up the claims of East Timorese “comfort women” with Japanese authorities. The lack of an official claim by the Timor-Leste government has been cynically exploited by the Japanese government as justification for its own failure to provide redress. Thirdly, unlike the governments of Korea and Taiwan, for example, the Timor-Leste government has not provided any form of assistance to survivors itself. Survivors thus find themselves in a vacuum, with neither the Japanese government nor their own government taking action to redress the harm that was inflicted on them. If the Timor-Leste government chooses not to request Japan to provide redress, it is all the more important that it fulfill its obligations towards survivors under CEDAW at the domestic level, as described below.
The obligation of the Timor-Leste government under Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention to publicly acknowledge and condemn the violence inflicted on East Timorese “comfort women; to provide them with effective remedies; and to refrain from discriminating against them in public statements and in the provision of social assistance
The abuses inflicted on East Timorese “comfort women” during WWII clearly fall within the scope of gender-based violence as defined by CEDAW General Recommendation No. 19 (1992), and thus comprise discrimination within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention.
Under Article 2 of the Convention, state parties “condemn discrimination against women in all its forms,” and undertake to “pursue … a policy of eliminating discrimination against women” by, among others, “(c) … establish[ing] legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and … ensur[ing] through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination,” and “(d) … refrain[ing] from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women.” Overall, Article 2 requires the Timor-Leste government to publicly acknowledge and condemn the violence inflicted on East Timorese “comfort women,” in order to demonstrate the government’s commitment to eliminating all forms of gender-based violence and discriminatory attitudes towards victims of gender-based violence. More specifically, we note that in General Recommendation No. 19 the CEDAW Committee recommended that state parties provide effective complaints procedures and remedies, including compensation, for victims of gender-based violence. Given the impossibility of the “comfort women” obtaining compensation from Japan through either the Timor-Leste or Japanese courts, and the fact that the Timor-Leste government has chosen not to ask Japan for reparations, Article 2(c) should be read as obliging the Timor-Leste government to provide effective remedies to survivors. Such remedies should include compensation; medical care; an official declaration restoring the dignity of the “comfort women”; and the inclusion of an accurate account of the violations that they suffered in educational material. In addition to being required under CEDAW, the provision of such remedies also conforms with the principle set out in the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly, that victims of serious human rights violations are entitled to benefit from remedies.4
Further, Article 2(d) places an obligation on government officials to refrain from exacerbating the mental trauma experienced by the “comfort women” by, for example, making disparaging comments about them. It also requires the government not to discriminate against survivors in the provision of social assistance. To date, however, the Timor-Leste government has not fulfilled these obligations. This is reflected in both the Initial Periodic Report and the Common Core Document. The Initial Periodic Report explicitly refers to the “systematic rape, torture, slavery and enforced sterilization of Timorese women” under the Indonesian occupation as one form of gender-based violence in Timor-Leste in its discussion of action taken by the government under CEDAW Article 2,5 and the report also contains an additional section, “Women in the Conflict,” devoted to describing these violations and their impact on victims,6 including the fact that “[v]iolence suffered at the hands of security forces often lead [sic] to discrimination and ostracization by their own community who viewed them as ‘fallen’ women.”7 The report does not, however, make any mention of the sexual slavery system organized and enforced by the Japanese military during WWII under Article 2. It does refer to trafficking for sexual exploitation as another form of gender-based violence in Timor-Leste under Article 2, with a note referring the reader to the discussion of Article 6 for more information. This section, however, states only that “[d]uring the Second World War, many women were forced to become ‘comfort women’ to the occupying Japanese forces.”8 The crimes that were inflicted on them –– rape and sexual enslavement –– are not specifically named, how these crimes were organized is not described, the impact of this violence on victims is not described, and no indication is given that survivors are still alive today. Further, the very next sentence –– “Domestic trafficking also took place in the districts during Portuguese times where, in order to maintain good associations with the ruling elite, some local village chiefs organized a system whereby local women and young girls were required to provide visiting dignitaries with sexual services upon request” –– gives the impression that what happened to the “comfort women” had its roots in a Timorese cultural practice, when in
4 UNGA Res. 60/147, 16 December 2005.
5 p. 30.
6 pp. 138-141.
7 p. 139.
8 p. 69.
fact women and girls were systematically forced into sexual slavery by Japanese authorities, and at least one Timorese leader (King Marcelo of Suai) was executed in public by Japanese troops and another (King of Talihoi, Viqueque) was punished for refusing to supply women. Finally, the fact that voluntary prostitution is also discussed in the same paragraph reinforces the discriminatory perception of “comfort women” as voluntary prostitutes, rather than victims of sexual slavery. Like the Initial Periodic Report, the Common Core Document refers to the sexual abuse suffered by East Timorese women during the Indonesian occupation,9 but makes no mention of the abuses inflicted on the “comfort women” and their ongoing suffering. In its actual practice, the Timor-Leste government has not provided effective remedies to the comfort women as required under Article 2(c). It taken no action to rehabilitate the reputation of survivors and has declined proposals for rehabilitation from civil society.10 On at least one occasion, it has in fact criticized survivors for speaking out,11 thus exacerbating their ongoing mental suffering. It is true that representatives of the Justice Ministry and Health Ministry attended a panel exhibition on the East Timorese comfort women” in 2008 and made a congratulatory address, but this action on its own
9 Paragraphs 24, 101-102, 109 and 111.
10 In January 2006, Japanese and East Timorese civil society groups held a public meeting in Dili, Timor-Leste, entitled “Let’s Seek the History of Jugun Ianfu [comfort women],” at which East Timorese comfort women” testified about their experiences. When a delegation from Japan led by Bishop Goro Matsuura met with Mr. Xanana Gusmao (the then President of Timor-Leste) on 7 January 2006, a member of the delegation asked the President to make a congratulatory remark to the survivors who had traveled all the way to the capital from the districts to testify that day and the day before. The President rejected this request. The President was also asked to say a few words in support of no discrimination against “comfort women” and that could be quoted publicly to counter any defamation against those who had spoken out. He rejected that request, too.
11 In March 2002 then-presidential candidate Xanana Gusmao stated that “It is a sad thing that the old ladies speak about their experiences.” While he was detained in Cipinang Prison in Indonesia, he told Mr. Kenichi Asano of the Kyodo News Service that he was ashamed to learn that former Indonesian “comfort women” were demanding reparations from the government of Japan, and that if they were Timorese women, they would not have done such a thing. Mr. Gusmao’s disapproving attitude towards the comfort women” speaking out about their victimization during WWII contrasts strongly with the fact that he has himself spoken out about the harm caused by the Japanese occupation, although without mentioning the “comfort women.” In his message to the 37th UN General Assembly in 1982, when he was fighting in the mountains as a leader of the armed East Timorese resistance against the Indonesian occupation, he stated: “We remind the Japanese government that we still carry the scars of the injuries caused by the massacres, tortures, imprisonment and violations of all types and the ruin of our country caused during three years of occupation by the criminal and vandal assassins. Today these scars have become ulcerous. In the United Nations the Tokyo government supports the extermination of a whole people who were decimated three decades ago by the Japanese. The Japanese people present to the world the wounds of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Maubere People drink the pus of the wounds caused by the Japanese aggression in the very recent past. Today, you forget to cure these injuries.’ CRRN Headquarters in East Timor, 14 October 1982, Commander-in-Chief of Falintil, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, National Political Commissioner. In Sarah Niner. ed. 2000. To Resist Is To Win: The Autobiography of Xanana Gusmão, Richmond: Aurora Books, pp. 83-4.
is insufficient to restore the dignity and reputation of survivors. Due to the fact that the East Timorese truth commission, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), was mandated only to cover the period of Indonesian occupation, the suffering of the “comfort women” received only cursory mention in CAVR’s final report,12 and “comfort women” were not able to benefit from the limited reparations program CAVR implemented.
Further, the Timor-Leste government has also failed to ensure that it does not discriminate against the “comfort women” in its provision of social assistance. The Common Core Document states that the Ministry of Labour and Community Reinsertion provides social assistance of US$100-$135 per month to veterans who fought in the 24-year independence struggle against Indonesia, and “recently passed legislation valorizing veterans, with provision for the payment of grants to former combatants,”13 but no similar program has been set up to assist the “comfort women.” It is a positive development that the Ministry of Social Solidarity reportedly began discussions with East Timorese NGOs in March 2009 about providing assistance to victims of sexual violence within the scheme of supporting the vulnerable, but these discussions have to date achieved no concrete results and it is not clear whether the program will cover the “comfort women.”
Requested action on the part of the CEDAW Committee
We thus respectfully urge the CEDAW Committee to a) question the Timor-Leste government on what measures it intends to take to meet its obligations to the “comfort women” under CEDAW, and b) recommend in its report that the Timor-Leste government: publicly acknowledge and condemn the violence inflicted on East Timorese “comfort women; provide them with effective remedies as described above;
and ensure their needs are taken into account in the provision of social assistance. Thank you very much for your attention.
12 “Chega! The Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor Leste” states that “[s]exual slavery of East Timorese women by Japanese troops was widespread.” (Part 3: The History of the Conflict, p. 10, para. 24)
13 Paragraphs 431-432.