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At the post-war Tokyo Tribunal, the Allied powers charged Japanese leaders with waging aggressive war and committing war crimes against prisoners-ofwar and civilians. This trial, presided over by the Australian judge, William Webb was criticised at the time (and still to this day) for its retrospective charges and procedural shortcomings. After its conclusion with the handing down of the majority judgment in November 1948, the Allies deemed the trial to have been a failure and closed the door against further prosecutions for international crimes.
Yet the themes raised in the course of the trial continue to resonate 70 years later. The trial did not succeed in settling accounts: the issue of Japan’s wartime actions remains highly topical in Asia, with still active claims for redress for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Even so, the legal innovations advanced at the Tribunal to deal with these actions, such as the then-novel idea of civilian command responsibility and the much-maligned charge of crimes against peace, have reappeared in new guises at the International Criminal Court.
At this event, three leading experts on international criminal justice in Asia aim to cast new light on the proceedings by re-examining the purposes, conduct and legacies of the Tokyo Tribunal.
Professor Neil Boister is head of the School of Law at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, and the author, with Robert Cryer, of The Tokyo International Military Tribunal: A Reappraisal (2008) and the edited volume, Documents on the Tokyo International Military Tribunal (2008). His research lies at the intersection of criminal law and international law and focuses on transnational crime.
Professor Robert Cribb is professor of Asian history at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, and the author of Japanese War Criminals: The Politics of Justice after the Second World War (2017) (with Sandra Wilson, Beatrice Trefalt and Dean Aszkielowicz). His research focuses on national identity, mass violence, environmental politics and historical geography.
Dr Kirsten Sellars is visiting fellow at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, and the author of ‘Crimes against Peace’ and International Law (2015), and the edited volume, Trials for International Crimes in Asia (2015). Her research focuses on international criminal law, the law governing uses of force, and the law of the sea, with particular emphasis on Asian perspectives.