(The Age) Don’t sign treaty unless war crimes admitted, PM told

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March 20, 2007 by Water Wisdom

Penelope Debelle
March 14, 2007
Prime Minister John Howard meets Japanese soldiers recently
returned from Iraq.Prime Minister John Howard meets Japanese soldiers recently returned from Iraq.
Photo: Andrew Taylor

A WOMEN’S support group has warned Prime Minister John Howard against signing a military treaty with Japan because of its failure to admit war crimes.

“We are concerned that Australia’s actions today are another step towards the international community allowing Japan to remilitarise while they still refuse to acknowledge some of the wartime atrocities committed by the Japanese military in World War II against women,” Friends of Comfort Women in Australia spokeswoman Anna Song said.

The group is concerned that the history taught in Japan’s schools and museums is almost entirely restricted to the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

It makes no mention of the conduct of Japanese captors at prisoner-of-war camps, the enforced sexual slavery of women prisoners, such as Adelaide woman Jan Ruff O’Herne, and other atrocities including the use of forced labour on the Burma railway.

“It is not at all about Japan being a former enemy, it’s not that kind of dynamic at all,” Ms Song said. “It is about having a state which is a member of the UN Human Rights Council but which has not acknowledged or taken full responsibility for its war crimes.”

She said Mr Howard’s enthusiasm for a new security pact was endorsing Japan’s failure to face its history.

“The partner of that treaty is a state that refuses to recognise its own human rights violations and war crimes. In that sense, it is a great step backwards,” she said.

“In their war museums and history books, the rhetoric is geared towards making Japan the victim of Hiroshima and the nuclear bombs that were dropped to stop the war.”

Ms Song, a Melbourne-based former Amnesty International activist, is a co-founder of Friends of Comfort Women.

The group is the Australian link to a network of organisations seeking justice for between 100,000 and 200,000 women forced into wartime sexual slavery by the Japanese.

While most comfort women were from Korea, Taiwan and China, Ms O’Herne was taken from a prison camp in Indonesia in 1944 and sent to a Japanese military brothel where she was repeatedly raped.


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