European rights group joins call for comfort women compensation

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Friday, August 23, 2013

A BERLIN-BASED human rights center asked the Supreme Court on Friday to recognize the right to compensation of 70 Filipino women who were sexually abused by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

In asking for the Court’s permission to intervene in the case, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) said the Philippine government has a duty under international law to examine the claims for compensation that have been brought by the survivors.

"It is widely recognized, that if an individual’s rights are infringed in the context of an armed conflict, he or she has to receive compensation for the harm he or she suffered. Due to the absence of a specific enforcement mechanism, their claims shall be recognized and supported by national authorities," the petition read.

For example, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation affirmed in 2008 that individual victims have an enforceable right to seek compensation. That decision ordered Germany to compensate victims of war massacres on June 29, 1944.

While Greece had previously entered into a reparations agreement with Germany, its lower courts found that the Germans should pay survivors of the massacre in Distomo village committed by their armed forces also in 1944.

The petition said the sexual enslavement of Filipinas and other women in Asian countries under Japanese rule was prohibited even during World War II, citing the 1926 Slavery Convention.

"Although Japan did not ratify the Convention, it was bound by the prohibition of slavery, as by the 1930s the Slavery Convention had attained the status of customary international law," said ECCHR, which helped pursued accountability from former Argentine generals for the so-called "Dirty War" against leftists in the 1970s.

But the Philippines' High Tribunal in its April 2010 ruling junked the petition filed by Isabelita Vinuya and other elderly women (collectively known as "Malaya Lolas"), saying that the country has no obligation to fight for their claims.

It also respected the Executive Department's power under the Constitution and the law to determine whether to espouse the women's claim against Japan, which occupied the Philippines from 1942 to 1945.

"Petitioners take quite a theoretical leap in claiming that these proscriptions automatically imply that the Philippines is under a non-derogable obligation to prosecute international crimes...Absent the consent of states, an applicable treaty regime, or a directive by the Security Council, there is no non-derogable duty to institute proceedings against Japan," the High Court said through Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.

The petitioners appealed the decision, which allegedly plagiarized certain passages from foreign articles.

The controversy resulted in an attempt to impeach del Castillo but the House of Representatives suddenly lost interest and pursued the ouster of then Chief Justice Renato Corona last year for alleged misdeclaration of assets.

Del Castillo was also asked to resign by 37 members of the University of the Philippines College of Law led by former dean Marvic Leonen, who later became SC Associate Justice. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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