The Limits and Potential of Peoples’ Tribunals as Legal Actors: Revisiting the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal

Transnational Legal Theory

18 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by W.L. Cheah

W.L. Cheah

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 17, 2021

Abstract

From 8 to 12 December 2000, the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal (‘TWT’) convened to address the sexual enslavement of ‘comfort women’ during the Second World War. As a peoples’ tribunal organised by private citizens, the TWT’s findings are not legally binding or enforceable. Nevertheless, the tribunal’s judgment has been referenced and discussed in numerous official legal spaces. This article argues that the TWT’s conventional approach to law enhanced its legal legitimacy and facilitated its penetration of formal legal spheres. The Tribunal’s legal strategy came with certain limitations. While its proceedings and judgment strove to engage with survivors’ experiences and claims in a holistic manner, the tribunal’s ability to do so was limited by its commitment to positive law and formal procedure. Drawing on transitional and restorative justice scholarship, this article explores the extent to which the TWT addressed survivors’ relational, participatory, and transformative claims.

Keywords: Tokyo Women's Tribunal, Peoples Tribunals, international law, human rights.

Suggested Citation

Cheah, W.L., The Limits and Potential of Peoples’ Tribunals as Legal Actors: Revisiting the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal (November 17, 2021). Transnational Legal Theory, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3965944

W.L. Cheah (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776
Singapore

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