121 Coalition Statement on the Passage of H.RES.121

Monday July 30, 2007

With the passage of H.Res. 121, the United States House of Representatives reaffirms its promise as a powerful advocate for human rights.

We commend the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Mike Honda, and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Tom Lantos, as well as all 167 cosponsors for their passionate, bipartisan support for this resolution.

We also want to thank Congressman Lane Evans and Congressman Henry Hyde who championed and supported H.Res.759. When H.Res 759 failed during the last Congress, many supporters felt defeated; but others did not give up. The 759 campaign became the foundation for a national movement behind H.Res.121.

We highly commend survivors Ms. Lee Yong Soo, Ms. Kim Koon-Ja, Ms. Jan Ruff O’Herne, as well as all survivors, living and deceased, who advocated for truth and reconciliation, and testified courageously about their agonizing captivity in military rape camps, also known as “comfort stations” during WWII.

We extend our gratitude to the American electorate who supported this resolution by sending thousands of letters and petitions to Congress members from all over the United States.

The so-called “comfort women” issue is not only about the past. It is also about the present and the future. Tragically, Japan’s wartime military rape camps were the precedent for human trafficking, rape, and sexual slavery that continue to this day. H.Res.121 delivers a strong message that we must protect civilians left vulnerable to violence and exploitation during armed conflicts, especially girls and women. The perpetrators of these deeds must now take notice: the world will hold you accountable.

This resolution is in no way an insult to the great nation of Japan. Rather, it is a challenge to leaders of all nations who would deny historical truth for political gain. The people of Japan have long understood that this issue can only be resolved with openness, honesty, and mutual respect. Leaders who deny history, like those who deny facts, serve no one but themselves. The people of Japan deserve an opportunity to put this terrible chapter of human history to rest, and reconcile with the world community in peace and in friendship.

Ethnic and sectarian conflicts in the Middle East serve as reminders that crimes such as these become fodder for future violence if the wounds they cause are allowed to fester without reconciliation, justice, or acceptance of responsibility.

Today, we stand with the United States House of Representatives to urge the people and the government of Japan to accept an invitation from their friends, the citizens of the United States, to officially acknowledge, apologize, and take responsibility for Imperial Japan’s role in the atrocities committed during WWII. We thank those who have sent us messages of support from around the globe, and we express our support for the citizens of Canada and Australia as they seek to pass similar resolutions. We see the success of H.Res 121 not as the end of our campaign, but as an auspicious beginning — one that will continue in partnership with human rights advocates in this country, in Japan, and around the world.