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Dutch parliament demands Japanese compensation for "comfort women"
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-11-21 14:48
In a highly unusual move, the lower house of the Dutch parliament passed a motion unanimously Tuesday, urging Japan to financially compensate the women forced into sex slavery during World War II.

This is the first time a national parliament has endorsed a motion calling for a thorough redressing of the sufferings of the so-called "comfort women" before and during World War II.

The motion requests the Dutch government ask Japan to "refrain from any declaration that will devalue the 1993 declaration of remorse" made by then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

Tokyo should "take full responsibility for the involvement of the Japanese army in the system of forced prostitution," the motion says.

The Japanese government is urged to "make an additional gesture by offering the comfort women still alive a form of direct, moral and financial compensation for the inflicted suffering," according to the motion.

Japan should also revise its history text books and give a more accurate picture of World War II, including moves by the Japanese military to force Asian and Western women into prostitution, the motion says.

Historians estimate that some 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese forces during World War II, including about 300 Dutch women and girls in the former Dutch colony of Indonesia.

STRONG SIGNAL SENT TO JAPAN

All 150 members of the lower house of parliament voted in favor of the motion, which is highly unusual for the Dutch parliament, Dutch lawmaker Hans van Baalen told Xinhua.

"This should send a strong and clear signal to the Japanese government and the Japanese people, that so many years after World War II, people in the Netherlands still want the Japanese to recognize the war crimes of the past and to recognize the victims," said van Baalen, who tabled the motion.

"It is a matter still taken seriously in the Netherlands," he said.

Japan should comply with the Dutch demands because this is "the only fair and honest way of treating the comfort women," said the foreign affairs spokesman of the Party for Freedom and Democracy.

Van Baalen is also acting chairman of the standing committee on foreign affairs of the lower house.

After the adoption of the motion Tuesday, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told parliament that he fully backs the parliament's demands and he will do his utmost to carry out the motion.

This means he will convey the demands to the Japanese government and seek a reply, van Baalen said. He said parliament will monitor the progress of the foreign minister.

Dutch lawmakers will also raise the issue when they meet their Japanese colleagues in the future, van Baalen said.

Martijn van Dam, foreign affairs spokesman for the ruling Labor Party in the lower house of parliament, said that the motion is a signal to the Japanese government that it should face the darkest pages of its recent history and not conceal it.

"They should hold on to the Kono statement (in 1993) and offer the women who were mistreated as comfort women apologies and compensation," he told Xinhua.

"We hope that this signal from our parliament will help to put pressure on the Japanese to accept their past and to do right to the victims," Van Dam said.

AN OPEN WOUND

Van Baalen believes that Japan's denial of the past war crimes has hurt its relations with the Netherlands, with which Japan is to celebrate 400 years of trade ties in 2009.

Failure to recognize the past and take responsibility for its war crimes prevent Japan from mending relations with the countries it invaded in the 1940s, he said.

"The wound won't heal unless Japan shows sincere remorse for its war atrocities," he said, adding that paying a justifiable material compensation would help demonstrate Japan's sincerity.

Former Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledged in 1993 that the Japanese military and government forced foreign females into acting as "comfort women" and offered an official apology. But some Japanese politicians have since distanced themselves from that statement.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe caused international uproar in March when he denied the government's coercion of "comfort women." He later retracted the statement.

In June, some Japanese lawmakers sparked further uproar when they ran an advertisement in the Washington Post saying the "comfort women" voluntarily served the Japanese military as prostitutes.

Dutch politicians, including Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and the speaker of the Dutch lower house of parliament, Gerdi Verbeet, were shocked by the comments and demanded explanations from their Japanese counterparts.

Van Baalen said the Japanese argument -- that by signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951 the Netherlands waived all reparation claims -- does not hold.

"Legally speaking, the Japanese may not be obliged to compensate the victims. But morally, they have an obligation to do that," he said.

"The former comfort women are asking for justice. Japan should do them justice by making formal apologies and offering an honorable compensation," said the lawmaker.

Furthermore, it will be in Japan's interest to recognize the past and compensate the victims, van Baalen said.

"Only in this way can Japan and its people get over the past and move on, and to develop healthy relations with other countries," van Baalen said.

Japan is trying to hide from the unpleasant truths in the hope they will fade with time, but the truths will not, he said.

He referred to post-war Germany as an example for Japan. After World War II, Germany made sincere apologies and offered financial compensation to the people who had suffered under Nazi rule.

By doing so, Germany regained trust from other countries and is taken as a responsible member of the international community.

Japan is now a much richer country than Germany in the 1950s, and it is just "a matter of political will" whether it wants to pay the damages, van Baalen said.

CAMPAIGN TO GET JUSTICE DONE

The motion was welcomed by the Japanese Honorary Debts Foundation, a Dutch civil group which has been campaigning for compensation for "comfort women" and other war victims for 15 years.

"It is the first time that a constitutionally elected parliament makes it clear that Japan can no longer ignore its past and has to redress materially the sufferings, pain and cruelty caused by its army in Dutch East Indies during World War II," Jan van Wagtendonk, president of the foundation, told Xinhua.

"It is time for Japan to pay its debts," he said. "Japan must make suitable repairs not only to the 'comfort women', but to all Dutch who suffered from the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia."

Van Wagtendonk said the speaker of the lower house, Gerdi Verbeet, told him that she was happy that the motion was passed unanimously, which showed that the lower house is serious in its requests.

Van Wagtendonk said his organization, which presents a petition to the Japanese embassy in The Hague every month, will not stop doing so until the Japanese government agrees to its demands.

So far the foundation has submitted 156 petitions, all addressed to the Japanese prime minister.

Van Wagtendonk believes that the Dutch parliament's motion will send an encouraging signal to national parliaments and individuals in other countries that also want justice done for World War II victims.

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the Japanese government to unambiguously acknowledge and accept responsibility for the sexual enslavement of women during its colonial occupation of Asia in the past century. It was the first resolution ever holding Japan accountable for the "comfort women" issue.

The Canadian parliament is currently discussing a motion urging the Japanese government to offer formal apologies and compensation to " comfort women."

Van Baalen said he is in contact with his colleagues in other European national parliaments and explains to them the Dutch position on the comfort women issue. He expects the European Parliament to pass a similar resolution in the not-too-distant future.

When more and more countries speak out and demand Japan acknowledge its war crimes, the Japanese people will realize what they have done wrong and make efforts to redress it, he said.

Source:Xinhuanet 
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