International Military Tribunal For The Far East The International Military Tribunal for the Far East Before assembling here today the Members of the Tribunal signed a joint affirmation to administer justice according to law, without fear, favor or affection. We fully appreciate the great responsibility resting upon us. There has been no more important criminal trial in all history. Certainly we are not a Senate or a House of Peers met for the impeachment of a Verrus or a Hastings, but a court of our respective countries. On the other hand the accused before us were no mere provincial governors, but for more than a decade were the leaders of Japan at the height of her power and prosperity. They include former prime ministers, foreign ministers, finance ministers, chiefs of staff, and others who have filled the highest places in the government of Japan.
The crimes alleged are crimes against the peace of the world, against the laws of war. And against humanity, and conspiracy to commit these crimes. They are so many and so great that is was decided the appropriate forum would be a military tribunal of an international character, namely a tribunal comprised of the representatives of the Allied powers that defeated Japan. While the former high rank of the accused of itself entitles them to no greater consideration than would be extended to the humblest Japanese private or Korean guard, the number and quality of the crimes charged ensure for them the most anxious consideration by the Tribunal of the evidence that will be adduced, and also the most careful ascertainment by the Tribunal of the law applicable. To our great task we bring open minds both on the facts and on the law. The onus will be on the prosecution to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
All Japanese Class A war criminals were tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) in Tokyo. The prosecution team was made up of justices from eleven Allied nations: Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Soviet Union and the United States of America.(See Affirmation). The Tokyo trials lasted two and a half years, from May 1946 to November 1948. Other war criminals were tried in the respective victim countries. Lastly, the war crime trials were held at ten different locations in China.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) consisted of a large variety of different persons representing different countries. The Tribunal’s sheer size and complexity is an example of an un-needed redundancy that among todays standards is unfathomable. When compared to its counterpart at Nuremberg, one can determine the seemingly comprehensive and complete proceedings as oddly overbearing. The Tokyo Trials lasted three times longer than the Trial of the Major German War Criminals. It involved at least 230 translators and 237 Prosecution and Defense lawyers.
The hypocritical aspects involve the methods and procedures in which the IMTFE operated. It was established in order to prosecute war criminals, allowing for the justice system to take on its role. Yet the IMTFE has set its own rules and standards, decided what evidence , however crucial, may or may not be entered as exhibits. The lack of a complete and fair trial existed not only in the admittance or the one sided exclusion of evidence, but also in the inadequacies of the Counsel or Members of the Tribunal. Note that there was also an immense unbalance of power between the two opposing sides. With all this in mind, were these trials ordered under the false pretense that the defendants would not have to endure any consequences? The integrity of the trials and the issues that revolve around them should be examined further.
Meanwhile discussion on the Tribunals birth and establishment is in order. The three major powers, Unites States, Russia, and China met to discuss Japans Fate. Resulting from this meeting is the Potsdam Declaration, in which it stated that the people of Japan would not be enslaved or subject to any atrocities, Only stern justice would be carried out with the application of international law through the trial system. The International Prosecution Section was established to prepare documents for the indictment of the War Criminals. On January 19, 1946 the IMTFE was brought into existence. A Charter promulgated by General McArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, when the Tribunal was conceived is in essence the constitution in which the trials were to run by. (See Charter) At the same time the Rules of Procedure was also instituted (See Rules of Procedure).
The IMTFE was established as a criminal trial for those individuals accused of Class A crimes stemming from their political positions in Japan during the Second World War. Inclusive are foreign ministers, chiefs of staff, prime ministers, etc. The one important exemption was the Emperor of Japan, for he was regarded as a kind constitutional monarch with his only intentions being to establish peace and prosperity for his people. The trials expenses were immense and was the only consequence for the United States. This was resolved when the Roosevelt administration had written off the trials cost of $300 million, in todays prices, sparing the Japanese taxpayer. The Americans had assembled an immense team of lawyers and support staff.
This was indeed the American way of thinking. The mere handful of lawyers assembled by the Allied powers was higher in quality and shamed the American team who depended on quantity not quality. Another perverse aspect of the trials is the fact that the Defense team assembled for the accused were purposely handicapped by express provisions in their Charters. It was mandatory that the Accused were to make a written application in advance before seeking to produce any evidence in the form of documents or witnesses. This prior disclosure however was not necessary for the Prosecution. There was also detrimental information that was obtained from the Accused without any legal protection prior to the trials.
In essence the Defense team was seriously understrengthed and unprepared to face such a complete, powerful, and large prosecution team. The 28 defendants charged were selected after international deliberations and the International Prosecution Section made the final decision. Of these 28, two committed suicide and one was declared insane, and out of the 25 remaining were convicted and all but 2 were found guilty on at least two charges. The Tribunal had completed its duties in applying international law, whether just or not, upon Japans War Criminals. History.