Save

An Age-Old Question: Optical (A)llusions, (In)Decency, and (In)Justice in the Trial of Japanese War Criminals

In: International Criminal Law Review
Author:
James Burnham Sedgwick Department of History & Classics, Acadia University, 10 Highland Avenue, Wolfville, NS, CanadaB4P 2R6, james.sedgwick@acadiau.ca

Search for other papers by James Burnham Sedgwick in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution

Purchase

Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):

$40.00

Abstract

Timing complicates all dimensions of post conflict redress. Moving too fast suggests prejudice. Going too slow delays accountability and closure. This paper challenges the temporal logic of international justice. The prosecution of aged defendants created aesthetical dilemmas for war crimes operations in post-World War ii Asia. The unsettling optical allusions of frail perpetrators in court — shadows of their former selves — left many observers conflicted: it looked indecent, it felt unjust and underwhelming. The unseemly punishment of weak defendants undercut prosecution attempts to brand perpetrators as monsters. Disappointed reporters and trial authorities fixated on the shabby dress, waning physique, and benign senescence of once-sinister villains. Few questioned the accused’s guilt. Many felt unnerved by the optics. Ultimately, this paper shows how the staging and performance of justice impacts a court’s effectiveness. Unrelenting accountability, bringing all war criminals to justice, feels right. Yet, the aesthetic complications of prosecuting aged accused may not be worth it.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 304 99 11
Full Text Views 24 6 0
PDF Views & Downloads 59 8 0