Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council

Japan must remember its past

Human Rights Council

25th session, March 2014

Oral Statement

Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Oral statement

Mr President,

Japan must remember its past. It must honour the victims who survived the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia) during World War II.

The surviving victims, who are in their seventies and eighties now, were children then. As children they had to endure the evil of the Japanese military occupation. They know and painfully feel their past. They know how it was to endure hunger, maltreatment, enslavement and to be forced to see the humiliation of their mothers, sisters and brothers. They cannot forget the deliberate barbaric treatment they had to endure at the hands of the Japanese military and their agents. The traumatic experience of slave labour, no matter how young they were, is still with them. They know how it feels not knowing what happened to their fathers, who were kept in separate captivity.

Of the surviving victims many suffered from incurable disorders. All cannot forget their ordeal and continue to live with traumas and other health problems.

It cannot be a surprise to you that we do not respect and cannot forgive those who gave the orders to maltreat them and ultimately ordered to kill them all in order to hide the war crimes of the Japanese military.

The Japanese leaders of the war period lost all respect for humanity. The present leaders must accept that and must not try to rewrite history. There is not and there never will be honour in glorifying the Japanese military behaviour during World War II. It would be honourable for the present leaders of Japan to admit it and not to glorify the past.

Every year more of these victims, including Comfort Women, die of old age. This does not mean that their pain and their stories will be forgotten. It is up to the next generations to use their voices until the Japanese government listens and accepts the moral commitment stemming from art. 14 (a) of the San Francisco Peace treaty: “It is recognized that Japan should pay reparations for the damage and sufferings caused by it during the war.”

On behalf of all the surviving victims of Japanese military terror, children then, 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.


Haunting memories

Human Rights Council
Twenty-fourth session
Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Written statement* submitted by the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts, a non-governmental organization on the roster

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.


The Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts was established in 1990 with the purpose of looking after the interests of the Netherlands -Dutch- citizens who, during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), were victims of the Japanese military during World War II.

The Dutch citizens were interned in concentration camps, families were split and men, women and children put in separate camps. No communication was allowed, smuggling of messages was impossible; if caught it could cost your life, in the best case you were brutally tortured. Many men were transported overseas and forced to do slavery work on railroads (e.g. Birma railroad) the mines or do coolie work in harbours. War time conventions were violated despite acceptance of these conventions by Japan.

Those Dutch left outside the camps on racial grounds were terrorized and disallowed to work for a living.

All were subjected to organised terror by the military, including enforced sex slavery and other forms of slavery, torture, intimidation, harsh disciplines, systematic starvation and denial of medicine. Many died and the ones who survived cannot forget their ordeal. Many continue to live with traumas and other health problems.

Still now, more than 68 years after the end of this war people come forward with their personal stories, the memories that still haunt them

One of these stories is an eye witness report of a then 14 year old boy who had only just moved into Women’s Hospital camp Solo on the island of Java, together with his mother, his two older sisters of 15 and 18 and his younger brother of 10.

His story is about Japanese officers who, as announced several weeks beforehand, came to collect 30 Dutch girls from Camp Solo in 1943.

In his own words written down in 2013 at the age of 86:

Quote: “Led by a young female doctor, Dr. Engels, thirty girls had soiled themselves and some had inflicted small injuries to themselves, such as little wounds on their lips. These would fester and looked very unappealing. At the time, I didn’t really understand it. These girls looked terrible and reeked immensely. Hair was no longer cut and there was no more bathing. Dresses were torn and smeared. Rags were bound around legs and the girls were taught how to limp and squint.

Once in a while there was some giggling because of these smelly, dirty disguises, but in the hearts of the girls and their mothers there was great fear and grief because no one knew what the Japanese were planning. It was clear however that, once the Japanese had made their choice, those girls would have to go with them. Yes, working in a hospital, getting an education and all kinds of other promises were made, but behind the scenes there was silent grief and great uncertainty.

And so the day arrived. Several girls had fallen ill because of all the misery and fear. There was vomiting and crying.

In my thoughts I saw my sisters standing there. What would happen to them? No one knew.

There they were: Five senior Japanese officers, in full uniform with high hats, imperial samurai swords, gold stripes and shiny leather boots. There were they, on the steps of the hospital, our Camp building, in Solo. Everyone in the camp had to be present on the forecourt. About 1800 women and children were already waiting for an hour. It was dead

quiet. My little 10 year old brother was sitting on the ground playing with sand and stones. My mother cried softly.

First a long story in Japanese translated by a Javanese interpreter in Malay: the beloved, benevolent and divine Japanese emperor Hirohito was pleased that 30 girls from this Women’s Camp were allowed to study in Japan, or would be trained as nurses, and could then go to work in various hospitals.

[In reality, girls, once selected in this manner, were forced into prostitution in brothels run by the military, as ‘Comfort Women’ for the Japanese forces.]

A spacious place in front of the steps of the building was kept free for the girls. There they would stand in a long line. Somewhere else the girls must have been standing at the ready. But they didn’t show up.

And then this happened.

The Japanese officers became restless: First murmurings, then profanities. They were not used to this. Our camp director, Mrs. Smith, was called forward. It took a while. Doctor Engels, a female doctor and the only doctor in the Women’s Camp, the one that had ‘prepared’ the girls, walked along with Mrs. Smith, onto the steps of the terrace. When asked where the girls were, the camp director told the interpreter in Malay that the girls were too young and were needed in the Camp. Doctor Engels continued that the girls were sick and weakened because there was not enough food in the camp. She added that the girls could not leave because they had to take care of their sick mothers and the smaller children.

Doctor Engels immediately got a hard slap in the face from a Japanese officer. She almost fell to the ground and just managed to prevent the man from hitting her with his sheathed sword by grabbing the sacred Japanese sabre. This caused her and the samurai to topple over backwards onto the floor. We knew what this would mean. This was a deadly sin to the Japanese. A holy Samurai was not to be touched by anyone, most certainly not by a woman!

Then all the officers went mad. Doctor Engels was kicked till she bled and beaten up completely, until she stopped moving. She was then dragged away to the hallway behind the terrace. We heard her screaming in agony a few times, and then there was silence. I remember that Doctor Engels lived another few days, but then died from her injuries.

She had had the courage to say NO and then died for the sake of the lives of 30 Dutch camp girls. All women and children present on the forecourt flew in all directions in a panic, back to their rooms and to the barracks, in desperate fear of what could happen now.

The Japanese officers retreated and got in their cars and left without having seen the girls.

A second attempt to pick up the girls failed to materialize and why …… we do not know. Probably because soon the ‘Military Command’ of the women’s camps was transferred to a Japanese Citizen Authority or Board. As far as I know there was never any retaliation, except that we received no food that day and all of the about 200 boys aged 10 to 18 were taken to the Boys Camp 7 in Ambarawa 100 kilometers away in the week after the uprising.” End of quote.

Memories like these still haunt the victims of the Japanese concentration camps.

On behalf of these victims the board of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts continues to seek moral recognition and justice. The Japanese government, due to international pressure, will ultimately have to acknowledge that they have a moral duty towards the Dutch from the former 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 this position however Japan must consider its past and rectify their wrongdoings.

The Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts requests the Human Rights Council to ensure that at last, after 68 years, Japan recognizes the facts and settles the damage by compensating the victims.

Petitie #227: Women’s rights


The Dutch women inside and outside the Japanese concentration camps were a power of strength of which we, who were at the time children, are immensely proud of. During the Second World War the Japanese occupying military forces tried everything to suppress that strength of will with the ultimate aim to destroy the Dutch community in Dutch East Indies. Despite harsh treatment and starvation the Japanese military failed to break them. More than 20% of the women and their children died in concentration camps or outside those camps. Your statement in the recent United Nations Assemblée that it is “a matter of outrage that there continues to be sexual violence against women during terms of armed conflict even now in the 21st century” is hypocritical. In this statement, which is beyond our comprehension, it appears you wholly overlook the 20th century violence which took place during the Japanese military occupation of Dutch East Indies!

Prime Minister,

It is time for you and the people of Japan to remember and to acknowledge that during World War Two the atrocities of the Japanese Military in the occupied territories of Asia were common practice. The way they mistreated the Dutch in Dutch East Indies requires special attention as it was not only how they executed their Tokyo instructions, but also how they discriminated against the Dutch on racial grounds, with the ultimate aim of destroying the Dutch community in Dutch East Indies. In other words the Japanese authorities had the special intent to commit genocide as instructed in the “Order to kill”. A war crime punishable indefinitely, a criminal liability which does not expire over time.

Prime Minister,

With your suggestion to work at home and abroad to improve the plight of women, you shift the attention away from the past practices of Japan during the 20th century. Since World War Two Japan has failed to acknowledge and to accept moral responsibility for the female victims of the military occupation. The Asian Women’s Fund was an attempt to rectify this, but did not convince the victims. The government of Japan did not institute the Fund but asked private Japanese citizens to assist. Hence the attacks on Japan and its politicians have continued, as they fail to acknowledge the facts and legally commit funds for the atonement of victims and their next of kin.

Prime Minister,

The Japanese authorities failure to accept its moral responsibility for damage to the war victims by referring to the San Francisco Peace treaty of 1951 as legally binding is unacceptable both in the context of your recent UN statement and the fact that Japan has adequate resources to pay reparations to the individual victims. Moral does not mean “heartfelt apologies”, but genuine excuses with atonement!

We would welcome an acknowledgement of the receipt of this petition by you personally.

On behalf of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts,


J.F. van Wagtendonk