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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"The organisers want to give a sense of justice to the survivors"
 real 28k

Friday, 8 December, 2000, 15:25 GMT
Sex slaves put Japan on trial
Dutch former sex slave Ruff-O'Herne:
Dutch victim Jan Ruff-O'Herne: "We are still waiting for an apology"
A mock war crimes tribunal, putting Japan in the dock for the Imperial Army's treatment of wartime sex slaves, has opened in Tokyo.

During the five-day hearing, 78 former comfort women will give evidence of their suffering at the hands of the Japanese army during the 1930s and 1940s.

We are still waiting for our dignity to be restored

Jan Ruff-O'Herne

The tribunal is based on an indictment against Japan's wartime government, former Emperor Hirohito and senior military officers, for setting up and operating military brothels as part of the war effort. It follows years of fighting for redress and failed legal suits.

Representatives from nine Asian countries are in Tokyo for the mock trial which, while not legally binding, is highly symbolic.

Previous trials failed

The hearings come just days after Japanese courts rejected appeals by Korean and Filipino comfort women who were demanding an apology and compensation.

Comfort women Tomasa Salinog, left, and Lee Young-soo
Tomasa Salinog, left, greets fellow former sex slave Lee Young-soo

More than 450 participants, including victims, lawyers, judges and scholars from around the world are attending the tribunal.

It is being presided over by an international panel of five judges, led by Gabrielle Kirk-McDonald, an American who served as a judge at the former Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal.

A ruling will be handed down on Tuesday.

Women abducted

An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 women across Asia, predominantly Korean and Chinese, are believed to have been forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese military brothels.

From seven in the morning until 12, I had to service foot soldiers; from 12 to six the officers; and from six till the next morning, the generals

Park Ok-ryun

Many were abducted, and some were barely in their teens. "I was taken at the age of 11," one former sex slave Kim Young-suk said.

One woman, Park Ok-ryun, was told she would work in a laundry. Instead, she was ordered to have sex with as many as 30 soldiers a day.

Although many women are now in the 70s - while others have died - they are still determined to fight for an official Japanese apology and compensation for their suffering.

The organisers, who include Asian women's groups from eight countries, hope to garner international support to seek redress.

Government denial

Although it has acknowledged the existence of comfort women brothels, the Japanese Government has consistently denied legal responsibility and refused to pay compensation.

For some though, even this acknowledgement goes too far. Right-wing groups have been protesting outside the tribunal, denying that such brothels existed.

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See also:

06 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
No compensation for Japan sex slaves
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Sex slave loses compensation bid
29 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Nanjing survivor sues Japanese authors
29 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan war slaves get $4.6m
29 Mar 98 | Despatches
Korean comfort women compensated
27 Apr 98 | Asia-Pacific
Wartime 'sex slaves' get compensation
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