Justice in Time of Turmoil: War Crimes Trials in Asia in the Context of Decolonization and Cold War
During the half-decade following the end of the Second World War, Allied military tribunals in Asia and the Pacific tried Japanese military personnel for war crimes committed during the hostilities. The trials commenced on the Pacific island of Guam in September 1945 and encompassed over 2,300 proceedings in more than 50 locations in Asia and the Pacific. Australia, (Nationalist) China, France, the Netherlands Indies, the Philippines, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the USA all convened trials in the period to April 1951. The Communist government of the People’s Republic of China, although not one of the wartime Allies, held its own trials in 1956. Around 5,700 people working for the Imperial Japanese armed forces were prosecuted. Approximately 4,500 were found guilty and in the end just over 900 were executed. The remainder of those found guilty were sentenced to prison terms. Alongside the national tribunals that undertook the vast bulk of the trial work, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE, also known as the Tokyo Trial) convened between April 1946 and November 1948 to prosecute 28 senior Japanese political and military figures. None of the accused in this trial was acquitted, but one was found unfit for trial and two died during the proceedings.
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