On the Completion of the Atonement Project of the Asian Women's Fund (AWF) in the Netherlands
July 13, 2001
1. The Projects of the Asian Women's Fund
Having deeply felt moral responsibility to the former "comfort women", the Asian Women's Fund (AWF) was established in July 1995, on the basis of the decision of the People and the Government of Japan. Since its establishment, AWF has conducted projects in the Netherlands, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan.
In the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan, the respective governments, authorities or authorized organizations have been carrying out the identification of "wartime comfort women". Based on the result of their identification, the AWF provides an atonement fund of two million yen to each person identified and applied, and also implement medical and welfare support projects for these people. Japanese people have contributed to the atonement fund, while the medical and welfare support projects are being implemented with the funds disbursed by the Government of Japan. The Governments of the Netherlands and Indonesia are not going through the identification process mentioned above. However, in the Netherlands, financial support in the medical and welfare fields have been provided to the people who were forced to perform sexual services at a comfort station or similar location. In Indonesia, a project entitled "Promotion of Social Welfare Services for Elderly People" has been implemented to build the facilities for the elderly people.
2. Outline of the Project in the Netherlands
On July 15, 1998, the AWF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Project Implementation Committee in the Netherlands (PICN) concerning the implementation of the project in the Netherlands.
Having understood the contents of the AWF project they claimed their past suffering, and applied for it. As a result, among the applied victims, 78 persons became recipients of the medical and welfare support projects. This project will be successfully completed on July 14, 2001.
3. Purpose and Beneficiaries of the Project
The purpose of this project was to provide financial support in the medical and welfare fields and to improve the living conditions for those who were forced for a certain period of time during WWII, to perform sexual services to members of then Japanese occupation forces at a comfort station or similar location in the former Dutch East Indies, and who held Dutch nationality at that moment.
4. Historical Background (Up to the Launching of the Project)
In 1996, the AWF began discussion about its "atonement project". The Government of Netherlands' stance has been that such issue concerning reparations, property and other claims arising out of World War II had been resolved by the San Francisco Peace Treaty and other instruments. Thus, the issue of the "comfort women" should be discussed directly with those who are concerned, without the government interference. Due to the position of the Government of the Netherlands, the AWF consulted with an organization of war victims through the mediation of the Government of the Netherlands. As a result, the PICN was established in order to implement the project. The concrete contents of the projects were discussed.
5. Signing of MOU and Launching of the Project
On July 15, 1998, at the official residence of the Japanese Ambassador to the Netherlands, the AWF signed a MOU with the PICN concerning the project in the Netherlands. Upon the implementation of the project, the then Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto sent a letter, to the Dutch Prime Minister Willem Kok expressing apologies and remorse (the letter attached).
At the occasion of the starting its project, the PICN placed advertisements explaining the contents of the project and the application period (six months) in the Dutch newspapers and magazines, including the newspapers of the countries where the victims are believed to reside, particularly those newsletters published for war victims (70 thousand subscribers worldwide).
6. Screening the Applications
Upon receiving the applications, the PICN checked the validity of each application according to standard-criteria, namely: (1) Did the applicant hold a Dutch nationality at that time? (2) Did the incident occur during World War II? (3) Where did it happen? (garrison, town or else?) (4)Was the victim forced? (5) Was it done by the then Japanese occupation forces or other Japanese authorities? (6) What kind of damage did the victim suffer and what degree of disorder and illness did the victim suffer as a consequence?
As a result of the examination by the PICN, 78 persons were recognized as qualifying to receive the project's goods and/or services.
7. Contents of the Project
The PICN implemented the project to provide medical and welfare goods and/or services for the recipients, taking fully into account the situation and needs of each individual recipient. The necessary amount for implementation, 241.5 million yen including administrative expenses was provided by the AWF, disbursed by the Government of Japan. Considering the fact that the victims are of advanced age, the implementation period was shortened by three years.
8. Members of the PICN
The members of the PICN are as follows:
President: Mrs. Drs. M. J. Hamer-Monod de Froideville
Main Advisor of the Board: General ret. G. L. J. Huyser
Advisor to the Board: Mr. Drs. C. Otte
Secretary of the Board: Mrs. K. Rijckborst - Van Houweninge
Treasurer: Mr. R.A. Peter
Member of the Board: Mrs. C. E. Suverkropp
Member of the Board: Mr. R. Ungerer
Any group, such as the PICN which holds personal data, is legally obligated to register at the Dutch Chamber of Registration of Personal Data. The PICN accordingly registered.
9. Responses from the recipients
The PICN has received letters of gratitude, flowers, etc. from recipients of this project and has sent some copies of these letters to the AWF. Of course the personal data of the recipients were removed from these letters.
Many of the recipients expressed in their letters that they felt relieved by the then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's letter addressed to Dutch Prime Minister Willem Kok.
10. Personal Data on the recipients of the Project
Personal data on the recipients of the project is not open to the public in order to protect their privacy.
In accordance with the Netherlands law concerning personal data management, the PICN asked all the recipients how to deal with their personal files possessed by the PICN; 40 recipients wanted their files to be destroyed, 20 recipients wanted their files to be returned, and 18 recipients wanted to give their files to the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD). The files were dealt accordingly.
The reports of this project including the financial report examined and approved by an audit office in the Netherlands were submitted to the Japanese side. This project has come to an end.
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