Petition for urgent action to realize justice for the victims of Japanese military sexual slavery in Timor-Leste during WWII

February 22, 2013

His Excellency Fumio Kishida, Foreign Minister of Japan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Kasumigaseki 2-2-1
Tokyo 100-8919

Dear Sir,


Comfort Women rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul August 2011

With the completion of the United Nations mission of assistance at the end of 2012, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste moved into a new phase as a fully self-sufficient state. Relations between Timor-Leste and Japan, which has assisted nation-building in Timor-Leste for many years as a member of the international community, have also entered a new stage, with the provision in March last year of the first yen loan to Timor-Leste.

However, Japan has yet to fulfill its responsibility towards Timor-Leste with regards to a matter of most serious concern. This is clarifying the truth of the grave human rights violations that were committed by the Japanese military during its WWII occupation of Portuguese Timor, ensuring accountability for these violations, and providing redress for victims. In particular, victims of Japanese military sexual slavery have endured for many years without any official measures being taken. Already, of the 19 victims who have come forth publicly, nine have passed away without hearing a single word of apology from the Japanese government.

Two of these victims passed away last year. One, Mariana de Araujo da Costa Marques (from Ainaro District), had testified about being handed over to a “comfort station” in Same after an unsuccessful attempt to hide in the bush. The other, Marcelina da Costa (Manufani District), had testified that she was threatened with a gun and handed over to a Japanese soldier called “Michi.”

Timor-Leste celebrated the 10th anniversary of independence last year, and at events such as the seminar “10 Years Since Independence: Looking Back at Women’s Rights,” the General Meeting of the National Youth Council, and the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Dom Boaventura’s uprising against the Portuguese colonial government, a panel display dealing with the issue of the “comfort women” was shown. Further, a series of five radio programs created by local human rights groups on the “comfort women” issue was broadcast twice by Radio Televisão Timor-Leste (RTTL), Timor-Leste’s public radio and television station. Thanks to the efforts of such local organizations, people in Timor-Leste are steadily learning more and more about the question of the “comfort women.”

Further, when Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Japan’s human rights record was conducted at the UN Human Rights Council last year, seven states referred to violations during WWII, including the “comfort women” issue, and the government of Timor-Leste called on the Japanese government to cooperate in “direct, genuine communication with survivors of past atrocities.”

The Japanese government must respond to these appeals from victimized countries. However, the new Abe government that was elected at the end of last year is going backwards with regard to this issue, indicating that it wishes to rethink the Kono Statement of 1993.

Today, February 20, 2013, is the 71st anniversary of the invasion of the island of Timor by the Japanese military. Since the end of the war, the Japanese government has taken no measures to address its responsibility for damage caused by the Japanese military in Portuguese Timor, and compensation to Timor-Leste for war damage remains an unresolved issue. Since establishing diplomatic relations with Timor-Leste, the Japanese government has attempted to justify its lack of action under the slogan of “looking to the future,” a stance that we believe is unconscionable.

Since 2000, we have worked with local women’s groups, human rights groups and legal practitioners to gather testimony from victims and witnesses of Japanese military sexual slavery in Timor-Leste, obtain documents from archives of related countries, compile the results of these investigations, and educate people in both Timor-Leste and Japan about what actually happened. We have also communicated the wishes of victims to the governments of both countries. The courage displayed by victims is a light that will guide the building of the rule of law, democracy and equality between the sexes in the new nation of Timor-Leste. These values are ones that Japan promotes internationally, and if the Japanese government itself does not display these values itself in its own conduct, it will be impossible for it to obtain the trust of Timor-Leste or the international community in general.

We therefore call on the Japanese government to take the following steps in order to build true friendship between Japan and Timor-Leste:

1. Hold talks with the government of Timor-Leste on the issue of the “comfort women” by the end of this year.
2. Admit the facts, apologize to victims, and consult with victims and victim support groups on appropriate redress for victims.

Yours sincerely,
Japan-East Timor Coalition

Petition also supported by the following 450 organizations and individuals:

Japanese organizations: 44

Individuals in Japan: 367

Overseas organizations: 14
AJAR (Asia Justice And Rights) Timor-Leste /Association France-Timor Leste /Australian East Timor Friendship Association (South Australia) /Australians for a Free East Timor (affet) /ETAN (East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, USA) /Foundation Pro Papua (the Netherlands) /Haiti Action Committee (USA) /Health Alliance International (USA) /Hunter East Timor Sisters – Australia /International Platform of Jurists for East Timor (IPJET) /Madison-Ainaro Sister-City Alliance (USA) /Medical Aid East Timor (USA) /Swedish East Timor Committee /Women’s League for International Peace and Freedom (Switzerland)

Individuals abroad: 25
Afredo Zamudio (Norway) /Alex Flor (Watch Indonesia!, Germany) /Andrew de Sousa (Thailand) /Betty A. Reardon (International Institute on Peace Education) /Bonar Tigor Naipospos (Setara Institute of Peace and Democracy, Indonesia) /Brian T. Manning (Campaign for an Independent East Timor) /Dale Hess (Australia) /David Swanson ( /Elizabeth Cowan (Australia) /Graham Frost (Australia) /James Dunn (Australia) /Joao Bano (Timor-Leste) /John Chamberlin (East Timor Religious Outreach, USA) /John M. Miller (War Resisters League, USA) /Maire Leadbeater (Indonesia Human Rights Committee, New Zealand) /Nola Errey (Australia) /Nug Katjasungkana (Forum Solidaritas Rakyat Timor-Leste, FORTILOS) /Polly Mann (USA) /Roger S. Clark (Professor, Rutgers Law School) /Sabino da Costa Salsinha /Terje Iversen (Norway) /Tommy Pollak (Sweden) /Ursula L. Slavick (USA) /William H. Slavik (USA) /Yael Danieli (USA)

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