UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Fifty-sixth Session

Agenda Item 14

Slavery, Displaced

Slavery/Displaced In Burma

IED/HLP has raised the issue of military slave porterage and other grave violations of humanitarian law in Burma for a number of years. We are encouraged with the ILO’s recent strong action regarding slavery and forced labor in Burma. We have said since 1991 that the regime currently holding power in Burma is illegitimate, having been overwhelmingly voted out of office on May 27, 1990. We have urged the United Nations to give the seat of Burma to the lawful government, and we view the failure to do so as contributing to the continuing pattern of slavery, war crimes, and the mass exodus of Burmese and other ethnic nationalities from Burma. Many national groups, including the Karenni Nationalities People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF), endorse the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) as the legitimate representative of Burma. We join the world-wide move in support of the CRPP and urge the Commission to request the UN General Assembly to seat the CRPP as the legitimate government of Burma.

Japan’s World War II Slaves

We have addressed for nine years the failure of Japan to pay requisite compensation to its WWII slaves. In addition to the victims of Japan’s military sexual slavery scheme, we have condemned Japan’s enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Koreans, Chinese, and Allied POWs and internees in nefarious labor camps and in Japanese industrial concerns involved in the war effort. But whereas the government of Germany has willingly provided redress to its WWII victims, Japan obstinately refuses. The international community must not let Japan dishonor yet again its victims and flaunt so shamelessly its contempt for justice. We are disappointed that the United States, while supporting the reparation and compensation programs of the German government for European Holocaust victims, has not demanded similar treatment for victims of the Asian Holocaust—many of whom are in fact its own citizens.

Japan justifies its refusal to pay compensation on its 1951 treaty with the allied powers (the Allied Treaty), which, Japan argues, excuses it from paying. We disagree. First, many of Japan’s victims—especially the Chinese and North Korean victims—are not covered by the Allied Treaty. Regarding the Treaty itself, no treaty that allows for or excuses slavery can be valid. There is a jus cogens and erga omnes duty on all States to acknowledge and compensate slavery and other war crimes (see, e.g., International Court of Justice, Barcelona Traction Case). Additionally, the Allied Treaty provides that if Japan enters into separate treaty with another State in which better compensation is provided, then Japan must pay the nationals of all the parties to the Allied Treaty the same, larger, sum. Only a few years after the signing of the Allied Treaty, Japan and Switzerland entered into a treaty whose terms provided that Japan would pay Swiss victims a significantly greater amount than the $14 per POW and $0 per internee that had been stipulated under the Allied Treaty, thus rendering it obligatory that Japan pay this same greater amount to all Allied nationals.

World War II will not end until Japan’s victims are paid. These victims’ lives have been ruined by the vile treatment they received during the war and continue to receive in light of Japan’s obvious contempt for them and their plight. They will not give up their lifelong quest for justice, and until they receive their due, Japan should not be allowed any role in international affairs.

 

United States’ Refusal to Compensate Latin Americans of Japanese Ancestry

The United States also has some World War II debts to pay, in particular to the citizens of Latin American Countries, primarily Peru, whom the US captured and brought to facilities in Panama and in the US. The US wanted people it could pass of as "Japanese" to exchange for European American internees and POWs held by the Japanese—and many of these Latin Americans were indeed sent to Japan in "POW exchanges." These persons of Japanese ancestry were of course Spanish speaking, but were given crash courses in Japanese to fool Japan into thinking they were in fact Japanese nationals. They deserve to be paid the same compensation paid to US nationals of Japanese ancestry held in internment camps during the War, but to date the US has refused.

 

Displaced Persons in Wars Around the World

In our annual review of armed conflicts, we note the alarming number of war displaced in the nearly 40 ongoing or recently concluded wars. In some wars—notably in Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Sri Lanka, Burma and Kashmir—the numbers of displaced have grown to form an alarming proportion of the entire population or of the affected groups. The Commission should call for effective mediation in the continuing wars and for much more attention by the international community on effective mechanisms for aiding and ultimately returning war-displaced to their homes.