Dagelijks archief: februari 23, 2021

Justice for World War II’s ‘comfort women’: lessons from the Seoul District Court’s rejection of Japan’s state immunity

On 8 January 2021, the Seoul Central District Court of South Korea rejected Japan’s State immunity plea in a case brought by twelve ‘comfort women’ who were forcibly subjected to systemic sexual enslavement by the Japanese military before and during World War II (an English translation of the judgment is available here). The court held Japan liable for these practices and entitled each of the women to 100 million KRW (approximately 77,000 EUR). In this post, we note that this decision is in tension with the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Jurisdictional Immunities Case (Germany v Italy; Greece intervening, 2012). In this judgment, the ICJ held that a foreign State, even if accused of committing international crimes, remains entitled to immunity from jurisdiction under customary international law. However, we also argue that international law in this field may be in flux, in the sense that an exception to State immunity regarding international crimes may be emerging. Furthermore, even if such an exception has not emerged just yet, domestic courts may refuse to give effect to relevant international immunity norms to the extent that they clash with constitutionally protected fundamental rights, such as the right of access to a court.

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