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Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) (ratification: 1932)
1. In its earlier comments, the Committee examined the issues of sexual slavery
(so-called “comfort women”) and industrial slavery during the Second World War.
The Committee refers in this connection to its earlier considerations concerning the limits of its mandate in respect of these historical breaches of the Convention. In 2006, the Committee in its observation firmly repeated its hope that the Government would in the immediate future take measures to respond to the claims of the surviving victims, the number of whom have
continued to decline with the passing years. The Committee also requested the
Government to continue to inform it about any recent judicial decisions and related
developments. In its 2007 observation, the Committee, in addition, requested the
Government to respond to the communications by the workers’ organizations.

2. The Committee notes the information communicated by the Government in
its reports received on 10 July 2008,1 September 2008 and 17 October 2008,
as well as the Government’s electronic communications dated 10 and 18 October 2008.Comments received from workers’ organizations

3. In 2008, the Committee has received further information from a number of
workers’ organizations, such as:

- All-Japan Shipbuilding and Engineering Union (dated 25 May and 21 August 2008);
- Tokyo Regional Council of Trade Unions (Tokyo-Chihyo) (dated 27 May and 20 August 2008);
- All-Japan Dockworkers Union-Nagoya Branch (dated 25 May and 2 June 2008);
- Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade
Unions (KCTU) (dated August 2008);
- Heavy Industry Labor Union (Japan) (dated 25 August 2008);
- Teachers’ Union of Nagoya Municipal High School (dated 26 August 2008);
- Aichi Union Seibonoie Branch (dated 25 August 2008);
- International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) (dated 2 September 2008);
- Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO) (dated 17 September 2008).
Copies of these communications were forwarded to the Government for any comments it might wish to make. The Committee notes the Government’s response to these communications received on 19 November 2008.

4. The above communications of the workers’ organizations referred,inter alia,to the status of cases pending in Japanese courts involving claims by victims of wartime industrial forced labour. The Committee notes that, according to the information communicated by the Tokyo Regional Council of Trade Unions (Tokyo-Chihyo), as of 31 July 2008 there were five such cases pending in the
appellate courts. In all of these cases the lower courts had dismissed the claims, either on procedural grounds as time-barred and barred by state immunity or as having been waived by post-war treaties and communique's. In two cases, final judgements dismissing the appeals were issued in July of 2008 by the Supreme Court ofJapan, including the Niigata case, which involved a
favourable decision on 26 March 2004 by the Niigata District Court and a judgement awarding
compensation of 8 million yen to each victim, but which was subsequently overturned by the Tokyo High Court on 14 March 2007.

5. The Committee notes the indication of the Tokyo Regional Council of Trade Unions (Tokyo-Chihyo), in its communication dated 20 August 2008, that in one of the cases pending before the Fukuoka High Court, the court issued a Forced labour ruling on 21 April 2008, in which it recommended that the parties, including the Government of Japan as one of the defendants, seek
reconciliation and an amicable settlement of the claims involved. The All-Japan Dockworkers
Union-Nagoya Branch, in its communication dated 2 June 2008, referred to a petition for a recommendation for reconciliation and amicable settlement lodged with the Japan Supreme Court, in the case against the Government of Japan and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd, brought by Korean victims of wartime industrial forced labour, the petition having been lodged after the Government of Japan declined to respond to a recommendation for settlement made by the Nagoya High Court in its judgement on 31 May 2007.

6. The communications from the workers’ organizations also referred to the issue of military sexual slavery as it continues to be taken up by several UN bodies, in particular, in the form of recommendations of the Working Group (of the UN Human Rights Council) on the Universal Periodic Review adopted in May 2008 (A/HRC/8/44, paragraph 60); as an item on the List of Issues taken
up by the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/JPN/Q/5), in connection with its
consideration in September 2008 of the Government’s fifth periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and in recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture in connection with its consideration, in May 2007, of the first periodic report of the Government under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment (CAT/C/JPN/CO/1, paragraphs 12 and 24).

7. The communications from the workers’ organizations also referred to recent
motions and resolutions on the issue of military sexual slavery adopted by several parliamentary bodies, which call for further measures to be taken by the Government of Japan. These include: a unanimous resolution passed by the lower house of the Netherlands Parliament on 20 November 2007; Motion 291 passed by the House of Commons of Canada on 28 November 2007; a joint motion for a resolution on “Justice for ‘Comfort Women’”, adopted by the European
Parliament on 13 December 2007; as well as resolutions adopted by the Japanese District
Councils of Takarazuka and Tokyo Kiyose on 25 March 2008 and 25 June 2008, respectively, urging the Government to take measures to examine and reveal the historical truth about the issue, to restore dignity and justice to the victims, to provide them with compensation, and to further educate the public Government’s response

8. The Committee notes the Government’s indication, in its repor treceived on 1 September 2008, that as of 31 May 2008 there were 13 cases still pending in the Japanese courts involving claims by victims of military sexual slavery and wartime industrial forced labour (one and 12 cases, respectively).
According tothe report, during the period from 1 June 2006 to 31 May 2008 the courts pronounced on these issues in three “comfort women” cases (two cases by the Supreme Court and one at the district court level) and in 17 “conscripted forced labour” cases (seven cases by the Supreme Court,five judgements at the high court level, and five at the district court level). The Government also
indicates that: “In all these cases, the courts have dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims for compensation against the GOJ in accordance with domestic law and international law including the relevant treaties settling war-related issues”.

9. The Committee notes the Government’s indications in its report received on 1 September 2008 and in its electronic communications of 10 and 18 October 2008 that, with regard to the issue of “comfort women”, the position of the Government expressed in the August 1993 statement of the then Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yohei Kono, in connection with a report on the findings of a
government inquiry, had remained unchanged and continued to represent the Government’s present position on this matter, and that the new Prime Minister Taro Aso had recently reaffirmed his support for this statement. The statement reads in part as follows:
Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honour and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as
comfort women … It is incumbent upon us, the Government of Japan, to
continue to consider seriously, while listening to the views of learned circles, how best we
can express this sentiment …

10. The Committee has noted from the Government’s statements in its report received on 1 September 2008, as well as in its replies to and comments on the recommendations of UN bodies referred to above, that with regard to non-legal measures to respond to the claims of surviving victims of wartime industrial forced labour and military sexual slavery and to meet their expectations, the
Government has placed a heavy, almost exclusive emphasis on the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) and its related activities, an initiative launched in 1995 and continued until the Fund was dissolved on 31 March 2007, and that the AWF appears to constitute the sole measure the Government has contemplated taking to fulfil its acknowledged moral responsibility to the victims. The Committee
recalls that in its 2001 and 2003 observations it considered that the rejection by the majority of former “comfort women” of monies from the AWF because it was not seen as compensation from the Government, and the rejection, by some, of the letter sent by the Prime Minister to the few who accepted monies from the Fund as not accepting government responsibility, suggested that this measure had not met the expectations of the majority of the victims. The Committee
therefore expressed the hope that the Government would make efforts, in consultation with
the surviving victims and the organizations which represent them, to find an alternative way to compensate the victims in a manner that would meet their expectations. The Committee recalls in this connection the Government’s statement in its report received on 26 September 2006, with reference to the dissolution of the AWF in March 2007, that it “will continue to make efforts to
seek further reconciliation with the victims”.

11. The Committee hopes that in making these further efforts to seek reconciliation with the victims, the Government will, in the immediate future, take measures to respond to the claims being made by the aged surviving victims.
The Committee also requests the Government to continue to provide information about recent judicial decisions and related developments.

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