Almost 20 years have passed since the “Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery” (hereafter, Women’s Tribunal) was held in Tokyo in December 2000. Initiated at the close of the 20th century by women who hoped to realize a 21st century free from war, the People’s Tribunal represented an effort by global civil society to break the cycle of impunity that perpetuates wartime sexual violence.
The late Ms. Yayori Matsui proposed holding an “Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal” at the Asian Solidarity Conference in 1998 and subsequently worked tirelessly to make it a reality, driven by the responsibility she felt as a woman from the aggressor nation of Japan. In December 2002, after having seen to completion the Women’s Tribunal in Tokyo in 2000, the issuing of the final judgement at The Hague in 2001, and the Japanese translation of the judgement extending to over 1,000 paragraphs, Ms. Matsui at last succumbed to illness and passed away. The founding of the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) grew out of our will to keep alive the spirit of the tribunal and fulfilled Ms. Matsui’s last wish to create a center for eradicating sexual violence in war and realizing a peaceful world free from aggression. Established in 2005 with support from numerous donors, WAM has worked ceaselessly for the past 15 years to pass down the history of suffering incurred and violence committed under Japan’s military system of sexual slavery from the perspective of gender justice.
The preamble of the Charter of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal declares that “this effort will also contribute toward creating a 21st century and a new millennium free of war and violence against women making the full documentation public to the world as indelible records of the 20th century history.”
Living in Japanese society, where revisionists are growingly gaining power, WAM has launched the project in 2015 to archive testimonies and documents on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery as a civil society initiative, in order to protect and pass on the documents to the next generation. We also nominated these documents to the UNESCO Memory of the World in 2016 with organizations from 8 victimized countries. However, the registration is still pending due to the strong interference by the Japanese government.
On this 20th anniversary, we decided to dedicate ourselves to establish the “Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal Archives” in English and in Japanese, in order to make “the full documentation public to the world as indelible records.” The archives will include the documents submitted to the Women’s Tribunal during and the video clips of its proceedings, and the final judgement, the most comprehensive document on “Japan’s military sexual slavery” written in English.
We will add more information after reviewing the documents we have at hand as well as the books and papers written on the Tribunal. We hope this Archives will serve as the opportunity for the global civil society to revisit the significance of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal. We are committed to fulfilling our responsibilities as a museum and an archive to provide information that can be accessed by all.
The Women’s Tribunal, which at times involved double interpretation, was a multilingual proceeding that included English, Korean, Chinese (including dialects from each region), Taiwanese and indigenous languages of Taiwan, Tagalog (Philippines), Indonesian, Tetum (East Timor), and Japanese. The principle language used in the judgement and other documents produced for the Judges, on the other hand, was English. Any attempt to reproduce and archive the multilingual tribunal would meet with great difficulties. The “Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal Archives” at WAM will be tentatively composed in accordance with the following purposes:
First, to make records of the hearings in a precise manner. In the process of constructing this website, we cross-checked the identities of women survivors who took the stand to give testimony and members of the prosecution teams by comparing written records with video recordings. Users will find written information together with video clips in order to grasp a broad overview of the hearings.
Second, to publish online as archives the documents submitted to the Tribunal. Indictments and exhibits are available in the order of the hearings on “Program” page.
Third, to upload the original text of the judgement (English) as a text file (PDF) that can be easily accessed.
On the occasion of this 20th anniversary, we very much hope viewers will gain an understanding of what the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal represented and make use of the archives for various research purposes as well as for regional activism.
The record of the Women’s Tribunal made open to the public in the WAM Library since its opening in 2005 was thought to be the original based on the history described above. A Visitor to the museum in 2016, however, raised doubts over its provenance, and discussions with concerned organizations confirmed that the material in the WAM library is a color copy and that the original was housed in South Korea. We apologize for having informed visitors mistakenly in the past.