Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Japan's Janus faces

Japan seems to be going 2 directions at once as far as international accountability is concerned. In one direction, its Cabinet has just decided to accede to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. This would make Japan the 105th state party in the world, the 13th Asian state party, and "the largest financial contributor" to the 5-year-old permanent tribunal empowered to try persons suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
In the other direction, some national leaders are backing away from Japan's 1993 apology to women held as sex slaves to the military during World War II. Detailing national and international accountability efforts of the last 15 years, our colleague Dinah L Shelton writes that "Japan owes far more than an apology to the comfort women. Redress is legally and morally required." The absence of an ICC-like permanent tribunal in the postwar era, she argues, created the "historical vacuum" within which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now denies the tragedy.
(With thanks to our colleague, Ambassador Derek Shearer, for alerting us to Shelton's commentary.)

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