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International Military Tribunal for the Far East
The INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL FOR THE FAR EAST (IMTFE), also known as the TOKYO TRIALS or the TOKYO WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL, was convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three categories of crimes. "Class A" crimes were reserved for those who participated in a joint conspiracy to start and wage war , and were brought against those in the highest decision-making bodies; "Class B" crimes were reserved for those who committed "conventional" atrocities or war crimes ; "Class C" crimes were reserved for those who committed Crimes against Humanity. This includes murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population or persecutions on political or racial grounds.
Twenty-eight Japanese military and political leaders were charged
with waging aggressive war and with responsibility for conventional
war crimes. More than 5,700 lower-ranking personnel were charged with
conventional war crimes in separate trials convened by
The Japanese Emperor
Hirohito and all members of the imperial family,
such as career officer
Prince Yasuhiko Asaka , were not prosecuted for
involvement in any of the three categories of crimes. Herbert Bix
Truman administration and
General MacArthur both
believed the occupation reforms would be implemented smoothly if they
Hirohito to legitimise their changes". As many as 50 suspects,
Nobusuke Kishi , who later became Prime Minister, and
Yoshisuke Aikawa , head of
The tribunal was adjourned on November 12, 1948.
* 1 Background
* 2 Creation of the court
* 2.1 Judges * 2.2 Prosecutors
* 3 Defendants
* 4 Tokyo War Crimes Trial
* 4.1 Charges * 4.2 Evidence and testimony * 4.3 Defense * 4.4 Judgment * 4.5 Sentencing
* 5 Other war crimes trials
* 6 Criticism
* 6.1 Charges of victors\' justice * 6.2 Pal\'s dissenting opinion * 6.3 Exoneration of the imperial family
* 7 Aftermath
* 7.1 Release of the remaining 42 "Class A" suspects
* 7.2 San Francisco Peace Treaty
* 8 Legacy * 9 See also
* 10 References
* 10.1 Notes * 10.2 Books * 10.3 Web
* 11 Further reading * 12 External links
The Tribunal was established to implement the Cairo Declaration , the
Potsdam Declaration , the Instrument of Surrender , and the Moscow
Conference . The
Potsdam Declaration had called for trials and purges
of those who had "deceived and misled" the Japanese people into war.
However, there was major disagreement, both among the Allies and
within their administrations, about whom to try and how to try them.
Despite the lack of consensus, General
CREATION OF THE COURT
On January 19, 1946, MacArthur issued a special proclamation ordering
the establishment of an International Military Tribunal for the Far
East (IMTFE). On the same day, he also approved the Charter of the
International Military Tribunal for the Far East
MacArthur appointed a panel of 12 judges, nine from the nations that signed the Instrument of Surrender.
COUNTRY JUDGE BACKGROUND OPINION
Sir William Webb
Justice of the High Court of
CANADA Edward Stuart McDougall Justice of the Court of King\'s Bench of Quebec
FRANCE Henri Bernard Avocat-General (Solicitor-General) at Bangui Chief Prosecutor, First Military Tribunal in Paris Dissenting
COUNTRY PROSECUTOR BACKGROUND
REPUBLIC OF CHINA Hsiang Che-chun Minister of Justice and Foreign Affairs
FRANCE Robert L. Oneto
BRITISH INDIA P. Govinda Menon Crown Prosecutor and Judge, Supreme Court of India
NETHERLANDS W.G. Frederick Borgerhoff-Mulder
PHILIPPINES Pedro Lopez Associate Prosecutor of the Philippines
UNITED KINGDOM Arthur Strettell Comyns Carr British MP and Barrister
SOVIET UNION Minister and Judge Sergei Alexandrovich Golunsky
Twenty-eight defendants were charged, mostly military officers and government officials.
* Kōki Hirota , prime minister (1936–37), foreign minister (1933–36, 1937–38) * Kiichirō Hiranuma , prime minister (1939), president of the privy council * Naoki Hoshino , chief cabinet secretary * Kōichi Kido , Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal * Toshio Shiratori , Ambassador to Italy * Shigenori Tōgō , foreign minister (1941–42, 1945) * Mamoru Shigemitsu , foreign minister (1943–45) * Okinori Kaya , finance minister (1941–44) * Yōsuke Matsuoka , foreign minister (1940–41)
Hideki Tōjō , prime minister (1941–44), war minister
(1940–44), chief of the
Imperial Japanese Army
* Shūmei Ōkawa , a political philosopher
TOKYO WAR CRIMES TRIAL
View of the Tribunal in session: the bench of judges is on the right, the defendants on the left, and the prosecutors in the back.
Following months of preparation, the IMTFE convened on April 29, 1946. The trials were held in the War Ministry office in Tokyo.
On May 3 the prosecution opened its case, charging the defendants with conventional war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. The trial continued for more than two and a half years, hearing testimony from 419 witnesses and admitting 4,336 exhibits of evidence, including depositions and affidavits from 779 other individuals.
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Following the model used at the
The indictment accused the defendants of promoting a scheme of conquest that "contemplated and carried out...murdering, maiming and ill-treating prisoners of war (and) civilian internees ...forcing them to labor under inhumane conditions...plundering public and private property , wantonly destroying cities , towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity ; (perpetrating) mass murder , rape , pillage, brigandage , torture and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population of the over-run countries."
Keenan issued a press statement along with the indictment: "War and treaty-breakers should be stripped of the glamour of national heroes and exposed as what they really are—plain, ordinary murderers".
1 As leaders, organisers, instigators, or accomplices in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to wage wars of aggression, and war or wars in violation of international law
27 Waging unprovoked war against China
29 Waging aggressive war against the United States
Waging aggressive war against the
Waging aggressive war against
35, 36 Waging aggressive war against the USSR
54 Ordered, authorised, and permitted inhumane treatment of prisoners of war and others
55 Deliberately and recklessly disregarded their duty to take adequate steps to prevent atrocities
EVIDENCE AND TESTIMONY
The prosecution began opening statements on May 3, 1946, and took 192 days to present its case, finishing on January 24, 1947. It submitted its evidence in fifteen phases.
The Charter provided that evidence against the accused could include any document "without proof of its issuance or signature" as well as diaries, letters, press reports, and sworn or unsworn out-of-court statements relating to the charges. Article 13 of the Charter read, in part: "The tribunal shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence...and shall admit any evidence which it deems to have probative value".
Wartime press releases of the Allies were admitted as evidence by the prosecution, while those sought to be entered by the defense were excluded. The recollection of a conversation with a long-dead man was admitted. Letters allegedly written by Japanese citizens were admitted with no proof of authenticity and no opportunity for cross examination by the defense.
The Tribunal embraced the best evidence rule once the Prosecution had rested. The best evidence rule dictates that the "best" or most authentic evidence must be produced (For example, a map instead of a description of the map; an original instead of a copy; and a witness instead of a description of what the witness may have said). Justice Pal, one of two justices to vote for acquittal on all counts, observed, "in a proceeding where we had to allow the prosecution to bring in any amount of hearsay evidence, it was somewhat misplaced caution to introduce this best evidence rule particularly when it operated practically against the defense only".
To prove their case, the prosecution team relied on the doctrine of "command responsibility ". This doctrine was that it did not require proof of criminal orders. The prosecution had to prove three things: that war crimes were systematic or widespread; the accused knew that troops were committing atrocities; and the accused had power or authority to stop the crimes.
The prosecution argued that a 1927 document known as the Tanaka Memorial showed that a "common plan or conspiracy" to commit "crimes against peace" bound the accused together. Thus, the prosecution argued that the conspiracy had begun in 1927 and continued through to the end of the war in 1945. The Tanaka Memorial is now considered by most historians to have been a forgery; however, it was not regarded as such at the time.
The defendants were represented by over a hundred attorneys, three-quarters of them Japanese and one-quarter American, plus a support staff. The defense opened its case on January 27, 1947, and finished its presentation 225 days later on September 9, 1947.
The defense argued that the trial could never be free from substantial doubt as to its "legality, fairness and impartiality".
The defense challenged the indictment, arguing that crimes against peace, and more specifically, the undefined concepts of conspiracy and aggressive war, had yet to be established as crimes in international law ; in effect, the IMTFE was contradicting accepted legal procedure by trying the defendants retroactively for violating laws which had not existed when the alleged crimes had been committed. The defense insisted that there was no basis in international law for holding individuals responsible for acts of state, as the Tokyo Trial proposed to do. The defense attacked the notion of negative criminality, by which the defendants were to be tried for failing to prevent breaches of law and war crimes by others, as likewise having no basis in international law.
The defense argued that Allied Powers' violations of international law should be examined.
Former Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō maintained that Japan had had no choice but to enter the war for self-defense purposes. He asserted that " we felt at the time that Japan was being driven either to war or suicide".
The IMT spent six months reaching judgment and drafting its 1,781-page opinion. The reading of the judgment and the sentences lasted from December 4 to 12, 1948. Five of the eleven justices released separate opinions outside the court.
In his concurring opinion Justice William Webb of
Delfin Jaranilla of the
Justice Henri Bernard of
"It is well-nigh impossible to define the concept of initiating or
waging a war of aggression both accurately and comprehensively", wrote
Justice Röling of the
Radhabinod Pal of
One defendant, Shūmei Ōkawa , was found mentally unfit for trial and the charges were dropped.
Six defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace (Class A, Class B and Class C):
Kenji Doihara , chief of the intelligence services in
Kōki Hirota , prime minister (later foreign minister)
Seishirō Itagaki , war minister
One defendant was sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes and crimes against humanity (Class B and Class C):
They were executed at
Sugamo Prison in
Sixteen defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment. Three (Koiso, Shiratori, and Umezu) died in prison, while the other thirteen were paroled between 1954 and 1956:
Sadao Araki , war minister
Foreign minister Shigenori Tōgō was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and died in prison in 1949. Foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu was sentenced to 7 years.
The verdict and sentences of the tribunal were confirmed by MacArthur
on November 24, 1948, two days after a perfunctory meeting with
members of the Allied Control Commission for Japan , who acted as the
local representatives of the nations of the Far Eastern Commission.
Six of those representatives made no recommendations for clemency.
Australia, Canada, India, and the
OTHER WAR CRIMES TRIALS
According to Japanese records, 5,700 Japanese individuals were
indicted for Class B and Class C war crimes. Of this number, 984 were
sentenced to death; 475 received life sentences; 2,944 were given more
limited prison terms; 1,018 were acquitted; and 279 were never brought
to trial or not sentenced. The number of death sentences by country is
as follows: the
The Khabarovsk War Crime Trials held by the Soviets tried and found guilty some members of Japan's bacteriological and chemical warfare unit, also known as Unit 731 . However, those who surrendered to the Americans were never brought to trial. As Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers , MacArthur gave immunity to Shiro Ishii and all members of the bacteriological research units in exchange for germ warfare data based on human experimentation . On May 6, 1947, he wrote to Washington that "additional data, possibly some statements from Ishii probably can be obtained by informing Japanese involved that information will be retained in intelligence channels and will not be employed as 'War Crimes' evidence". The deal was concluded in 1948.
In 1981 John W. Powell published an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists detailing the experiments of Unit 731 and its open-air tests of germ warfare on civilians. It was printed with a statement by Judge Röling, the last surviving member of the Tokyo Tribunal, who wrote, "As one of the judges in the International Military Tribunal, it is a bitter experience for me to be informed now that centrally ordered Japanese war criminality of the most disgusting kind was kept secret from the Court by the U.S. government".
CHARGES OF VICTORS\' JUSTICE
Justice Delfin had been captured by the Japanese and walked the Bataan Death March . The defense sought to remove him from the bench claiming he would be unable to maintain objectivity. The request was rejected but Delfin did excuse himself from presentation of evidence for atrocities in his native country of the Philippines.
Radhabinod Pal argued that the exclusion of Western
colonialism and the atomic bombings of
Justice Röling stated, "f course, in Japan we were all aware of the
bombings and the burnings of Tokyo and
However, in respect to Pal and Röling's statement about the conduct
of air attacks, there was no positive or specific customary
international humanitarian law with respect to aerial warfare before
and during World War II.
Ben Bruce Blakeney , an American defense
consul for Japanese defendants, argued that "f the killing of Admiral
Kidd by the bombing of Pearl Harbor is murder , we know the name of
the very man who hands loosed the atomic bomb on
PAL\'S DISSENTING OPINION
Pal's dissenting opinion raised substantive objections: he found that the entire prosecution case to be weak regarding the conspiracy to commit an act of aggressive war, which would include the brutalization and subjugation of conquered nations. About the Nanking Massacre —while acknowledging the brutality of the incident—he said that there was nothing to show that it was the "product of government policy" or that Japanese government officials were directly responsible. There is "no evidence, testimonial or circumstantial, concomitant, prospectant, restrospectant, that would in any way lead to the inference that the government in any way permitted the commission of such offenses", he said. In any case, he added, conspiracy to wage aggressive war was not illegal in 1937, or at any point since.
EXONERATION OF THE IMPERIAL FAMILY
There has been much criticism of the blanket exoneration of Emperor Hirohito and all members of the imperial family, including Prince Asaka , Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu , Prince Higashikuni and Prince Takeda .
As early as November 26, 1945, MacArthur confirmed to Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai that the emperor's abdication would not be necessary. Before the war crimes trials actually convened, SCAP, the IPS, and court officials worked behind the scenes not only to prevent the imperial family from being indicted, but also to slant the testimony of the defendants to ensure that no one implicated the emperor. High officials in court circles and the Japanese government collaborated with Allied GHQ in compiling lists of prospective war criminals. People arrested as Class A suspects and incarcerated in the Sugamo Prison solemnly vowed to protect their sovereign against any possible taint of war responsibility.
According to historian
Herbert Bix ,
Bix also argues that "MacArthur's truly extraordinary measures to save Hirohito from trial as a war criminal had a lasting and profoundly distorting impact on Japanese understanding of the lost war" and "months before the Tokyo tribunal commenced, MacArthur's highest subordinates were working to attribute ultimate responsibility for Pearl Harbor to Hideki Tōjō ". According to a written report by Shūichi Mizota, Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai 's interpreter, Fellers met the two men at his office on March 6, 1946, and told Yonai, "it would be most convenient if the Japanese side could prove to us that the emperor is completely blameless. I think the forthcoming trials offer the best opportunity to do that. Tōjō, in particular, should be made to bear all responsibility at this trial".
John W. Dower wrote that the campaign to absolve Emperor
Hirohito of responsibility "knew no bounds". He argued that with
MacArthur's full approval, the prosecution effectively acted as "a
defense team for the emperor", who was presented as "an almost saintly
figure" let alone someone culpable of war crimes. He stated, "Even
Japanese activists who endorse the ideals of the Nuremberg and Tokyo
charters, and who have labored to document and publicize the
atrocities of the Shōwa regime, cannot defend the American decision
to exonerate the emperor of war responsibility and then, in the chill
Three justices wrote an obiter dictum about the criminal responsibility of Hirohito. Judge-in-Chief Webb declared, "no ruler can commit the crime of launching aggressive war and then validly claim to be excused for doing so because his life would otherwise have been in danger...It will remain that the men who advised the commission of a crime, if it be one, are in no worse position than the man who directs the crime be committed".
Justice Henri Bernard of
Justice Röling did not find the emperor's immunity objectionable and further argued that five defendants (Kido, Hata, Hirota, Shigemitsu, and Tōgō) should have been acquitted.
RELEASE OF THE REMAINING 42 "CLASS A" SUSPECTS
The International Prosecution Section of the SCAP decided to try the seventy Japanese apprehended for "Class A" war crimes in three groups. The first group of 28 were major leaders in the military, political, and diplomatic sphere. The second group (23 people) and the third group (nineteen people) were industrial and financial magnates who had been engaged in weapons manufacturing industries or were accused of trafficking in narcotics, as well as a number of lesser known leaders in military, political, and diplomatic spheres. The most notable among these were:
Nobusuke Kishi : In charge of industry and commerce of Manchukuo,
1936–40; Minister of Industry and Commerce under Tojo
Fusanosuke Kuhara : Leader of the pro-
All remaining people apprehended and accused of Class A war crimes who had not yet come to trial were set free by MacArthur in 1947 and 1948.
SAN FRANCISCO PEACE TREATY
Under Article 11 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty , signed on September 8, 1951, Japan accepted the jurisdiction of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Article 11 of the treaty reads:
Japan accepts the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan, and will carry out the sentences imposed thereby upon Japanese nationals imprisoned in Japan. The power to grant clemency, reduce sentences and parole with respect to such prisoners may not be exercised except on the decision of the government or governments which imposed the sentence in each instance, and on the recommendation of Japan. In the case of persons sentenced by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, such power may not be exercised except on the decision of a majority of the governments represented on the Tribunal, and on the recommendation of Japan.
PAROLE FOR WAR CRIMINALS MOVEMENT
In 1950, after most Allied war crimes trials had ended, thousands of convicted war criminals sat in prisons across Asia and Europe, detained in the countries where they had been convicted. Some executions had not yet been carried out, as Allied courts agreed to reexamine their verdicts. Sentences were reduced in some cases, and a system of parole was instituted, but without relinquishing control over the fate of the imprisoned (even after Japan and Germany had regained their sovereignty).
The focus changed from the top wartime leaders to "ordinary" war criminals (Class B and C in Japan), and an intense and broadly-supported campaign for amnesty for all imprisoned war criminals ensued. The issue of criminal responsibility was reframed as a humanitarian problem.
On March 7, 1950, MacArthur issued a directive that reduced the sentences by one-third for good behavior and authorized the parole after fifteen years of those who had received life sentences. Several of those who were imprisoned were released earlier on parole due to ill health.
Many Japanese reacted to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal by demanding parole for the detainees or mitigation of their sentences. Shortly after the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, a movement demanding the release of B- and C-class war criminals began, emphasizing the "unfairness of the war crimes tribunals" and the "misery and hardship of the families of war criminals". The movement quickly garnered the support of more than ten million Japanese. The government commented that "public sentiment in our country is that the war criminals are not criminals. Rather, they gather great sympathy as victims of the war, and the number of people concerned about the war crimes tribunal system itself is steadily increasing".
The parole for war criminals movement was driven by two groups: people who had "a sense of pity" for the prisoners demanded, "just set them free" (tonikaku shakuho o) regardless of how it is done. The war criminals themselves called for their own release as part of an anti-war peace movement.
On September 4, 1952, President Truman issued Executive Order 10393,
establishing a Clemency and
On May 26, 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles rejected a proposed amnesty for the imprisoned war criminals but instead agreed to "change the ground rules" by reducing the period required for eligibility for parole from 15 years to 10 years.
By the end of 1958, all Japanese war criminals were released from prison and politically rehabilitated. Hashimoto Kingorô, Hata Shunroku, Minami Jirô, and Oka Takazumi were all released on parole in 1954. Araki Sadao, Hiranuma Kiichirô, Hoshino Naoki, Kaya Okinori, Kido Kôichi, Ôshima Hiroshi, Shimada Shigetarô, and Suzuki Teiichi were released on parole in 1955. Satô Kenryô, whom many—including Judge Röling—regarded as the one least deserving of imprisonment, was not granted parole until March 1956, the last of the Class A Japanese war criminals to be released. With the concurrence of a majority of the powers represented on the tribunal, the Japanese government announced on April 7, 1957, that the last ten major Japanese war criminals who had previously been paroled were granted clemency and were to be regarded henceforth as unconditionally free.
In 1978 the kami of 1,068 convicted war criminals, including 14
convicted Class-A war criminals were secretly enshrined at Yasukuni
Shrine . Those enshrined include Hideki Tōjō, Kenji Doihara, Iwane
Matsui, Heitarō Kimura, Kōki Hirota, Seishirō Itagaki, Akira Mutō,
Yosuke Matsuoka, Osami Nagano, Toshio Shiratori, Kiichirō Hiranuma,
Arnold Brackman , who had covered the trials for United Press International , wrote The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, a rebuttal to charges that the trial had been "victors' justice;" this rebuttal was published posthumously in 1987.
In a survey of 3,000 Japanese people conducted by Asahi News as the 60th anniversary approached in 2006, 70% of those questioned were unaware of the details of the trials, a figure that rose to 90% for those in the 20–29 age group. Some 76% of the people polled recognized a degree of aggression on Japan's part during the war, while only 7% believed it was a war strictly for self-defense.
A South Korean government commission cleared 83 of the 148 Koreans convicted by the Allies of war crimes during World War II. The commission ruled that the Koreans, who were categorized as Class B and Class C war criminals, were in fact victims of Japanese imperialism.
Japanese war crimes
Erima Harvey Northcroft Tokyo War Crimes Trial Collection
Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal
* ^ "More about the IMTFE". Guides @ Georgia Law. The University of
Georgia School of Law. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
* ^ "Herbert P. Bix on
Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan".
HarperCollins. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
* ^ "Charter of the International Military Tribunal for the Far
East". Archived from the original on February 22, 1999. Retrieved May
* ^ Within documents relating to the IMTFE, it is also referred to
as the "Charter".
* ^ Rules of Procedure of the International Military Tribunal for
the Far East. April 25, 1946.
* ^ Personal correspondence, Sir William Webb, as President of the
International Military Tribunal for the Far East