The Australian Trials of Class B and C Japanese War Crime Suspects, 1945-51

By Okada, Emmi | Australian International Law Journal, Annual 2009 | Go to article overview

The Australian Trials of Class B and C Japanese War Crime Suspects, 1945-51


Okada, Emmi, Australian International Law Journal


Abstract

This article examines the legal issues arising from the Australian trials of Class B and C Japanese war crime suspects that took place between 1945 and 1951, with a view to discerning the various considerations at play in the question of 'victors' justice'. It begins by canvassing the background of the Australian trials, and then turns to consider the procedural and substantive legal issues that surfaced. It is shown that, in many respects, the Australian trials did not meet the international standards of justice that we have become accustomed to today--mainly due to the inadequacies of the war crimes legislation in place at the time. Nevertheless, it is concluded that the 'victors' justice' question unhelpfully frames these inadequacies as ones motivated by revenge, which does not accord with the conduct, for the most part, of the officers of the military tribunal, and the manner in which they interpreted and applied the war crimes legislation and legal precedent. Instead, this article argues in favour of a more beneficial approach to drawing upon the experiences of the Australian trials, one that goes beyond the confines of the assumptions inherent in the question of 'victors' justice'.

Introduction

In 1985, the late David Sissons, an Australian historian who had dedicated a great part of his life to researching Japan-Australia relations and the post-war Japanese war crimes trials, wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald that began with a telling anecdote. It described an incident involving a visiting Japanese author who had brought Mr Sissons a photograph of a monument erected on Mt Sagane commemorating the Japanese men sentenced to death in the Australian war crimes trials, which had inscribed on it the words: '[t]hese trials were nothing more than vengeance, the proud victors exercising arbitrary judgment over the vanquished'. The visiting author had asked him whether he agreed with the sentence--'[t]he question called for a "yes" or "no" answer. I'm afraid my reply must be more complex' was the measured position of Mr Sissons. (1)

In considering the war crimes trials conducted by Australia from a legal perspective and the question of 'victors' justice' that inescapably crops up in a study of this nature, this article arrives at a similar conclusion. These trials, which took place from 1945 to 1951 under the War Crimes Act 1945 (Cth) (WCA), in many respects fell short of the international law standards of justice that we have evolved today. Yet, at least in a great majority of cases, there was nevertheless a notable exercise of legalistic restraint and an effort to achieve procedural integrity (despite the shortcomings of the WCA), which belies a simplistic view that the Australian trials were nothing more than vengeance disguised as law.

There are several ways in which the trials conducted by the Australian military tribunal could be categorised for examination. One way is by the nature of the victim--for example, whether the victim was a civilian or prisoner of war (POW); or by the nationality of the victim. Another method might be the nature of the crimes--whether they were massacres, ill-treatment of POWs, illegal medical experiments and so on. Although a comprehensive study of the war crimes tried by Australia would demand that material be organised under such rubrics, in this article the discussion is organised under the legal issues that emerge from the Australian trials. Individual cases are referred to in the course of discussion, but this article does not purport to examine the range of the 296 trials.

After briefly considering the background of Australia's war crimes trials, this article examines the procedural and substantive legal issues arising from those trials, with a view to discerning the various considerations at play in the question of 'victors' justice'. In so doing, it is hoped that this article will contribute to filling a conspicuous scholarly lacuna in this area of Australian legal history. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Australian Trials of Class B and C Japanese War Crime Suspects, 1945-51
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.