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Japan's Comfort Women System (amicus)

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In collaboration with other organizations, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed an amicus brief supporting the rights of the victims of Japan’s comfort women system to sue for damages arising from sexual enslavement during World War II.


This amicus brief argues that Japan is not immune from suit for its sexual enslavement of women and girls during World War II and presently. After a case in which the district court dismissed the suit on the grounds that Japan was shielded by sovereign immunity, 14 individuals and organizations, including CCR, filed an amicus brief on August 21, 2002, and August 28, 2002. 

In this brief, the amici stated that under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), the Japanese government is not entitled to immunity for acts “in connection with a commercial activity.”  The amici illustrate that the comfort women system operated by the Japanese government during World War II was an outgrowth of the pre-existing private market for sexual services in Japan. The amicus brief also stated that “the Japanese government thus not only engaged in conduct similar to commercial actors, it sought the aid and cooperation of those actors and emulated their business methodology.  Indeed, the Japanese government’s activities so resembled the activities of commercial actors that, as recently as 1990, the Japanese government claimed that the comfort women system had not been the work of the government at all, but rather of private entrepreneurs and war profiteers.”

Another reason provided for why Japan was not entitled to immunity was because of the terms expressed on the 1921 trafficking treaty and the 1919 War Crimes Commission report, which gave notice that such conduct could give rise to liability. Clearly both its signature on the 1921 treaty and its subsequent violation of that treaty constituted an implicit waiver of sovereign immunity.

CCR and the other amici argued that international law must be enforced and that perpetrators must be held accountable for violating the law.