Saturday, March 10, 2018

Wilson, Cribb, Trefalt, and Aszkielowicz's "Japanese War Criminals"

Sandra Wilson is professor of history in the School of Arts and a fellow of the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University. She is the author of The Manchurian Crisis and Japanese Society, 1931-33 (2002).

Robert Cribb is professor of Asian history at the Australian National University. He is author (with Li Narangoa) of the Historical Atlas of Northeast Asia: Korea, Manchuria, Mongolia, Eastern Siberia (Columbia, 2014).

Beatrice Trefalt is senior lecturer in Japanese studies at Monash University. She is the author of Japanese Army Stragglers and Memories of the War in Japan, 1950-1975 (2003), and coeditor, with Chris Dixon and Sean Brawley, of Competing Voices from the Pacific War (2009).

Dean Aszkielowicz teaches at Murdoch University and is the author of The Australian Pursuit of Japanese War Criminals, 1943-1958: From Foe to Friend.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their 2017 book, Japanese War Criminals: The Politics of Justice After the Second World War, and reported the following:
Our book is about the pursuit of Japanese war crimes suspects by eleven Allied governments after the Second World War, in one international tribunal (the Tokyo Trial) and many more nationally-based military tribunals. About 5,700 suspects were prosecuted in total. Our main focus is on the complex interconnections between considerations of justice and of politics, broadly defined, in the war crimes trial project. Page 99 comes nearly at the end of our chapter on what happened in the courtrooms.

The courtroom story is only one part of the whole account. In fact one of our major points is that it’s not enough to look only at courts and sentences. Politics and justice were intertwined at all stages of the pursuit of the war criminals, from the initial investigations through selection of defendants, prosecutions, sentencing, and imprisonment or execution, to eventual release. But even though page 99 only deals with one part of the process, it illuminates several of the main themes in the book as a whole.

At the top of the page we mention Korean camp guards, which draws attention to the fact that, as colonial subjects, Koreans served in the Japanese military and could be arrested as “Japanese” war crimes suspects. Most of the page is about alterations to sentences that had been passed in the courtrooms. Sentences were altered in a variety of ways, sometimes immediately and sometimes long afterwards. Recognising that alterations happened highlights the danger of looking only at initial sentences: they do not necessarily represent what happened to the defendant in the end. Some sentences were altered because a confirming officer was unhappy with the proceedings or because the sentence was out of step with sentences passed on other defendants in similar cases. Some sentences were changed for political reasons. Here we give an example in which Chinese authorities intervened to have a general found not guilty so that they could use him to recruit Japanese soldiers to help fight on the Nationalist side against Communist forces in the Chinese civil war. We have much more to say about more formal clemency processes later in the book.
Learn more about Japanese War Criminals at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue