Victor’s Justice, Victim’s Justice: The Role of ‘Class A’ War Crimes in Shaping the Legacy of the Tokyo Tribunal
The Class A component of the International Military Proceedings for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as the Tokyo Trial, has had a central—and at times overbearing—presence within the legacy of the tribunal. Documents from the very beginning of the legal proceedings have established a clear prioritization by the Allied forces to target the ‘arch criminals’ accused of committing the newly coined charges of ‘crimes against peace’. Important historical figures involved in the trial, as well as subsequent historians and legal scholars, have continued to problematize and attack the trials for this focus. This criticism, while at times legitimate, has helped solidify the legacy of the Tokyo Trial as ‘victor’s justice’. Due to this focus, usually at best the Tokyo Trial is dismissed or devalued; at worst it has become a tool of Japanese war crimes apologists and deniers. The legal emphasis on Class A war crimes did have significant flaws and weaknesses which are important to highlight. However, historical analysis has become stuck in a ‘victor’s justice’ time loop, limiting the historical scope of the Tokyo Trials for too long. There is an urgent need to move beyond this concept within the scholarship of the IMTFE, while also understand the impact of this focus. The fixation with ‘victor’s justice’ has been seared into specific national narratives of remembrance, victimhood and trauma. While it will also touch upon the transnational factors that contributed to Japan’s process of silencing and remembering, this paper will explore the ways in which Class A war crimes have come to define and construct the legacy of the Tokyo Trial and its place in Japan’s national wartime narrative. Though there is a place within the historical discussion of the IMTFE for concepts such as ‘victor’s justice’ and criticism of crimes against peace, this paper will conclude with a discussion on how scholars can move beyond this limiting perspective and reach a more complex understanding of the Tokyo Trial and its legacy.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/24921
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