Introduction to the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts
The Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts was established in 1990 with the purpose to look after the interests of the Netherlands -Dutch- citizens who, during the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), were victims of the Japanese military. During World War II they either lived in concentration camps or outside of these camps or were moved to other territories against their will as POW to work at the railroads or the mines as slaves. The Dutch were included with the other Allied POW’s in the order by the Japanese military, on instructions from Tokyo, to be disposed of by the end of the War (Kill All, Leave no Traces). All Netherlands citizens in the camps – men, women and children – were forced to work as slaves, violating all war time conventions despite acceptance of these conventions by Japan. Those left outside the camps on racial grounds were terrorized and disallowed to work for a living. All the Dutch citizens were subjected to organised terror by the military, including but not limited to enforced sex slavery and other forms of slavery, torture, intimidation, harsh disciplines, systematic starvation and denial of medicine. Many died. Of the surviving victims many suffered from incurable disorders. All cannot forget their ordeal and continue to live with traumas and other health problems. On behalf of the victims of Japanese military terror the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts demands acknowledgement from the Japanese authorities of the gross violations of human rights and seeks redress for the damage done to the individual victims still alive or their next of kin for those who passed away. These damages were inflicted on them by the Japanese military on behalf on the Japanese government, as well as on their own accord. The Foundation’s principal aim is that Japan pays its respect and honours its obligations to the Dutch from Netherlands East Indies.
Facts and figures
March 1942 the Japanese military commenced to occupy the Netherlands East Indies, now Indonesia. The nationals from the Netherlands, the Dutch with a Netherlands passport or equivalent documents, were singled out to be locked up in prisons and concentrations camps. The conditions were abominable, aimed at oppression, terrorization and humiliation. The lack of medical and sanitary facilities was part of a premeditated policy to wipe out the prisoners. Men, women and children were individually as well as collectively maltreated. Young girls and women were forcefully recruited to sexual slavery, young boys 10 years and older were separated from their mothers and isolated in special camps. Men – Prisoners of War (POW) – were maltreated and transported overseas to work as slaves in mines, shipyards and factories inTaiwan, Japan, Korea and on constructing railroads in Burma, Thailand and Sumatra. Those who resisted were tortured and ultimately killed. The Japanese military behaved, contrary to the International Conventions on War, which Japan had accepted previously, in a barbaric and atrocious way. The Dutch who had to stay outside of the concentrations camps on racial grounds were denied employment and had to live from the land. Their situation was as hazardous and life threatening as those in the camps, but due to the Japanese campaign to turn the local people against the Dutch their position was often even more precarious. The conditions were cruel and deliberately aimed at finishing the Dutch off. The atomic bombs prevented the Japanese military to carry its Kill All, Leave no Traces order, thus avoiding genocide equivalent to the Holocaust. Of the around 300,000 Dutch people, 45,000 died. 40,000 were POW’s, 80,000 men, women and children were kept in concentration camps and 160,000 were oppressed outside of the concentration camps. These were all innocent people who happened to be Dutch. 75,000 of the surviving Dutch nationals suffered incurable disorders. Of the original 300,000 victims it is estimated that now (2012) about 30,000 are still alive. Around 400 girls and women are known to have been forced into sexual slavery; many more have been abused, including young boys. Those who survived were left with permanent trauma’s. Only a few of them are still alive.
The Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts was established in 1990 primarily to look after the interests of the Dutch from the former Netherlands East Indies. The Foundations’ initiative stemmed from the American decision to pay Americans of Japanese descent $20.000 compensation per person for their internment by the Americans during World War II. It is reasonable to assume that Japan should do likewise for the Dutch who were interned by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war. Legal actions In 1991 the Dutch government asked a commission of international law specialists to study the prospects of submitting a claim to the Japanese government for compensation payment to the individual victims of the Japanese occupation. The commission suggested that individual victims could and should make their own claims directly to the Japanese authorities. In 1994 some members associated with the Foundation started, as advised, individual legal proceedings against the Japanese government in Tokyo, Japan. Their claim was based on violation of human rights in accordance with the The Hague Convention of 1907 (regulating military behavior in occupied territories). The Convention states: “A belligerent party which violates the provisions of the said Regulations shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation. It shall be responsible for all acts committed by persons forming part of its armed forces.” During the legal proceedings the victims and many experts and witnesses were called by the courts. The Tokyo court concluded that members of the Imperial Army had violated the The Hague Convention and thus that Japan is liable to pay compensation in accordance with article 3 of the The Hague Convention of 1907. It was made clear in the indictment that Japan as a state was liable to pay. Unfortunately the 1907 Convention does not address individual rights. It dismissed the individual claims. This conclusion was incorrect. Comparable to the situation following the Stikker-Yoshida agreement, which was concluded after the signing of the 1951 Peace Treaty. It took four years of hard negotiations, during which Japan reduced the compensation amount considerably to less than ten cents per day, per civil internee, before the agreement was recorded into a Protocol. The Protocol, between the governments of Japan and the Netherlands is known as: “the settlement of the problem concerning certain types of private claims of Netherlands nationals”. This Protocol does not address psychological traumatic disorders nor any claims by victims which were not interned in the military concentration camps on racial grounds. However the Japanese government did demonstrate its willingness to compensate individuals. Nevertheless, the Japanese High Court concluded that individual claims were waived in the Peace Treaty and dismissed the case as well. The Supreme Court dismissed the subsequent appeal on administrative grounds. For the members of the Foundation this was a great disappointment, but they accepted the Japanese courts verdict knowing that the Supreme Court did not consider the cases and dismissed them only for administrative reasons.
Japan’s moral responsibility
The Japanese government has, despite the judiciary outcome, the moral and social responsibility to rectify the wrongdoings of the Japanese Imperial Army, and has to extend the so called settlements made in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Stikker-Yoshida agreement later. Both were inadequate in paying respect and honoring the victims. Japan must take into account the effects the Japanese occupation has had on the Dutch, in particular the physical and material effects of the occupation. The Japanese government avoids the moral issues with legal arguments. It does not feel obligated to share the economic benefits from the waiving of repairs with individual victims in the San Francisco peace treaty. The waiving of repairs was granted to Japan on the grounds of Japans’ inability to pay such claims at the signing of the Treaty. In fact the war victims paid twice since Japan’s benefited substantially and materially from the waiving of repairs in the Peace treaty. In modern democracies it is common practice to consider not only the legal sides of a conflict but also the moral issues. Through its moral issues a nation gives evidence of being reliable in the international world of the United Nations. It can thus play an active role in the international bodies. Japan maintains that they want to play an important role in the international bodies. Among their ambitions they are advocating to become a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations. However, its past records and in particular the denial of the brutal way of the Imperial Army during the war is not convincing. Contrary to Germany, Japan has adopted a policy of a strictly legal approach, avoiding any moral responsibility. The legality of its approach may be questioned as well, as Japan’s Imperial Army’s acts against humanity still stand as proven war crimes which cannot be overruled or absolved by an independent Peace Treaty. Victimized nations should therefore indict Japan for violating the The Hague convention of 1907 (conduct of military) with the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Despite the disappointing result of the court cases in Japan, the unsolved moral and social issues remain. The board of the Foundation continues on behalf of the Foundations supporters to seek moral recognition and justice. The view is that the Japanese government due to international pressure will ultimately have to acknowledge that they have a moral duty towards the Dutch from the Netherlands East Indies. The Japanese government claims that as a nation they “fight” for peace and justice. Taking its responsibilities in the international bodies seriously, playing significant roles in human rights, conflict mediation and peace keeping forces. Before claiming a position however Japan must consider its past and rectify their wrongdoings.
Dialogue with Japan
The Foundation continues a dialogue with the Japanese government arguing its views and making suggestions on how we may be able to bridge the gap between the Japanese culture of apology and the Dutch request for acknowledgment and redress. Members of the Foundation demonstrate each second Tuesday of the month at the Japanese Embassy in The Hague. During the demonstrations the Board is received by the Ambassador and hands over a petition addressed to the Prime Minister of Japan requesting acknowledgment of the plight of the Dutch from former Netherlands East Indies and seeking acceptance of the moral obligation of the Japanese people to redress their past. You can find these petitions in English on this website. Depending on the Prime Minister in office and the position of the Ambassador our message is sent to Tokyo, and hopefully seen by him. We have not been successful in entering a true dialogue as the Japanese authorities continue to refer to their legal position without acknowledging the moral issue. Nevertheless, we have the feeling that Japan’s youth is increasingly questioning the position of its government on its military past. Moreover, politically the conservative powers are feeling the pressure from both inside and outside of Japan that there is the need for change if Japan is to remain acceptable as a partner. Considering the history and the position of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts as an accepted Non-Governmental Organization by the United Nations, it has the position and the will to continue the fight for justice and redress on moral and social grounds. Doing so by, for instance, attending the Meetings of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and delivering both written and verbal statements. You can find these statements on this website.