TOKYO - Japan's top court on Friday rejected two compensation claims by
Chinese who suffered at Japanese hands during World War Two, as Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe tried to soothe anger in Washington over his comments on wartime sex
|Lawyer Sadahiko Sakaguchi (C)
holds up a banner reading "unjust ruling" as supporters of plaintiffs hold
portraits of Chinese plaintiffs Hou Qiaolian (L) and Guo Xicui after the
judgement in front of the Supreme Court in Tokyo April 27, 2007. Two
Chinese women who were kidnapped and forced to provide sex for
Japanese soldiers during World War Two lost their case for compensation at
Japan's Supreme Court on Friday. [Reuters]|
The Supreme Court rulings against forced labourers and women forced into
sexual servitude will effectively halt a raft of wartime damages cases being
fought mainly by Chinese and Koreans, because lower courts look to the top court
Two Chinese women who were kidnapped and forced to provide sex for Japanese
soldiers during World War Two lost their Supreme Court appeal for damages. That
claim had already been settled under a 1972 Japan-China joint statement, the
Their lawyer called on the government nonetheless to provide some form of
damages to the surviving of the two women, who is 80 years old.
"I hope that the government admits to the truth and takes specific measures
to compensate the victim while she is in good health," said lawyer Sadahiko
The issue of sex slaves, known as "comfort women" in Japan, has attracted
renewed interest after Abe sparked international outrage in March by denying
that the military or the government had forced the women, most of them Asian,
into sexual slavery.
Abe has since repeatedly apologised for the suffering of the victims -- most
recently in a meeting with U.S. congressional leaders during an official visit
In Friday's ruling, the top court acknowledged that the women had been
forcibly taken by the Japanese military, then sent to the brothels, contrary to
Abe's remarks in March.
LANDMARK RULING OVERTURNED
In another case, five Chinese who were forced to work for Japanese firm
Nishimatsu Construction Co. Ltd. during World War Two lost their fight for
compensation when the Supreme Court overturned a landmark ruling that had
ordered the company to pay them.
That claim had also been settled under the 1972 joint statement, the court
"The ruling is disgraceful in light of friendly relations between Japan and
China," said Shinzo Tsuchiya, a supporter of the former labourers.
In 2004, the Hiroshima High Court ordered Nishimatsu to pay a total of 27.5
million yen ($230,000) to the plaintiffs.
Nishimatsu had argued that the statute of limitations had expired on
violations of obligations to ensure safe working conditions for the workers.
"We have not yet seen the judgment, so we cannot comment in detail," a
Nishimatsu official said. "But it is a victory for our company, so from that
point of view we think it is an appropriate verdict."
The plaintiffs are among 360 Chinese forcibly brought from China to work in
Japan in July 1944. Most of them worked at a Nishimatsu hydroelectric power
plant construction site in western Japan until the end of the war in 1945.
Acknowledging that the Chinese labourers had gone through "extremely grave
mental and physical sufferings," presiding judge Ryoji Nakagawa suggested that
Nishimatsu work to provide relief to the plaintiffs.
Lawyers for the labourers said they planned to meet Nishimatsu executives
later in the day.
Dozens of wartime compensation suits have been filed against the Japanese
government and companies associated with its aggression in the first half of the
20th century, but almost all have been rejected by Japanese courts.