GENEVA, Aug. 6 -- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) Navi Pillay on Wednesday expressed profound regret that Japan has failed to pursue a comprehensive, impartial and lasting resolution of the issue of wartime sexual slavery.
She warned that the human rights of the victims, known as “comfort women," continue to be violated decades after the end of the Second World War.
“During my visit to Japan in 2010, I appealed to the government to provide effective redress to the victims of wartime sexual slavery,” the High Commissioner said in a statement.
“Now, as my tenure in office comes to an end, it pains me to see that these courageous women are passing away one by one without their rights restored and without receiving the reparation to which they are entitled,” she added.
Pillay stressed this is not an issue relegated to history as human rights violations against these women continue to occur as long as their rights to justice and reparation are not realized.
Instead of justice, she added, the women are facing increasing denials and degrading remarks by public figures in Japan.
A report, issued by a study team appointed by the Japanese government in June, stated that “it was not possible to confirm that women were forcefully recruited.”
Following the release of this report, a group in Tokyo publicly declared that “comfort women were not sex slaves but wartime prostitutes.”
"Such statements must cause tremendous agony to the women, but we have not seen any public rebuttal by the government,” Pillay said.
Over the years, Japan has received recommendations from a number of independent UN experts, human rights treaty bodies and from the Human Rights Council under its Universal Periodic Review for it to take concrete measures to tackle the issue.
Most recently, the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, called on Japan to take “immediate and effective legislative and administrative measures” to ensure that all allegations of sexual slavery are investigated and perpetrators prosecuted.
It also called for access to justice and reparations for victims and their families, the disclosure of all evidence available, and education in the country surrounding the issue.