GENEVA (Yonhap) ― Wrapping up her six years of work as U.N. human rights chief, Navi Pillay spared no words in demanding that Japan come clean on its wartime sexual enslavement of Korean and other Asian women.
She urged Tokyo to take “immediate and effective legislative and administrative measures to ensure that every allegation of sexual slavery is investigated.”
“As I near the end of my mandate, I am deeply saddened to see that little progress has been made and victims of this crime have been passing away without realizing their rights to justice and reparation,” she said in a farewell interview in writing with Yonhap News Agency last week. She is retiring on Monday after serving as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights since 2008.
More than 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also China, Taiwan, and other Asian countries, were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II. Victims are euphemistically called “comfort women.”
Known for her tireless efforts to fight against discrimination and human rights violations, Pillay said the comfort women issue has been of deep concern to her both personally and officially.
She stressed the importance of bringing those responsible for crimes against humanity to justice.
“Perpetrators must be prosecuted,” she said. “It is extremely important to ensure that victims and their families have access to justice and reparations and that all available evidence is disclosed.”
She added that education in Japan regarding the matter would be also important.
On North Korea, Pillay said work needs to continue to improve human rights conditions there.
The Commission of Inquiry’s report on the problem, released in March, should be the beginning of a process, not the end, she said.
The fruit of a yearlong probe by the ad-hoc U.N. organization, the document accused North Korea’s leadership of committing “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights.”
The COI report, she said, has brought new momentum to efforts to tackle the human rights situation in the communist nation.
“I am sure my successor and Member States (of the U.N. Human Rights Council) will not let this drop, including in the (U.N.) Security Council,” she said.
While honorably retiring, she said there are many unresolved challenges to improving human rights around the world.
Among a number of things, she said, are the “shrinking space for civil society” in many countries and the lack of thorough early warning systems in the international community.
“I am increasingly concerned about the situation of human rights defenders and activists,” she said. “States have an obligation to ensure that these individuals are able to carry on their important work without fear of reprisals and without being hampered by ill-defined legal and administrative obstacles.”