Australia's War Crimes Trials 1945-51


This unique volume provides a detailed analysis of Australia’s 300 war crimes trials of principally Japanese accused conducted in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Part I contains contextual essays explaining why Australia established military courts to conduct these trials and thematic essays considering various legal issues in, and historical perspectives on, the trials. Part II offers a comprehensive collection of eight location essays, one each for the physical locations where the trials were held. In Part III post-trial issues are reviewed, such as the operation of compounds for war criminals; the repatriation of convicted Japanese war criminals to serve the remainder of their sentences; and reflections of some of those convicted on their experience of the trials. In the final essay, a contemporary reflection on the fairness of the trials is provided, not on the basis of a twenty-first century critique of contemporary minimum standards of fair trial expected in the prosecution of war crimes, but by reviewing approaches taken in the trials themselves as well as from reactions to the trials by those associated with them. The essays are supported by a large collection of unique historical photographs, maps and statistical materials. There has been no systematic and comprehensive analysis of these trials so far, which has meant that they are virtually precluded from consideration as judicial precedent. This volume fills that gap, and offers scholars and practitioners an important and groundbreaking resource.

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Georgina Fitzpatrick was the Research Fellow (Historian) based initially at the Australian War Memorial and then at the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, University of Melbourne (2009-12) where she prepared contextual essays for the Australia’s Post-World War II Crimes Trials of the Japanese: A Systematic and Comprehensive Law Reports Series (forthcoming). She received her doctorate from the Australian National University in 2009 and her publications include ‘War Crimes Trials, “Victor’s Justice” and Australian military justice in the aftermath of the Second World War’ in Gerry Simpson and Kevin Heller eds, The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials, 2013.

Tim McCormack is a Professor of Law at the Melbourne Law School and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Tasmania Law School. He is also the Special Adviser on International Humanitarian Law to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He served as an international observer for Phase 2 of the Turkel Commission of Enquiry into Israel’s Processes for the Investigation of Alleged War Crimes (Jerusalem, 2011-13); as expert Law of War Adviser to Major Michael Mori for the Defence of David Hicks before the US Military Commission (Guantanamo Bay, 2003-07); and as amicus curiae on International Law Issues for the Trial of Slobodan Milosevic (The Hague, 2002-06). He was the Foundation Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (2001-10) and the Foundation Australian Red Cross Professor of International Humanitarian Law (1996-2010) both at the Melbourne Law School. He is currently a Fulbright Senior Scholar, the Charles H Stockton Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island and James Barr Ames Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. Tim leads the project on Australia’s Post-World War II War Crimes Trials of the Japanese: A Systematic and Comprehensive Law Reports Series

Narrelle Morris is a Lecturer in the Curtin Law School and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Melbourne Law School. She is the principal legal researcher on the Melbourne-based Australian Research Council funded project Australia’s Post-World War II War Crimes Trials of the Japanese: A Systematic and Comprehensive Law Reports Series. She also holds an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (2014-17) to conduct research into the Australian war crimes investigator and jurist Sir William Flood Webb. She is the author of Japan-bashing: Anti-Japanism since the 1980s (2010) and various chapters and articles on war crimes.

"This is a remarkable, landmark and long overdue book which will aid historians, lawyers and jurists to make sense of the processes, outcomes and contexts of almost 300 Australian war crimes trials, which cannot otherwise be readily comprehended in the absence of written judgments. Its carefully written, measured chapters are the product of intensive primary research...This outstanding book will contribute to contemporary debates about the substance of war crimes liabilities, the ways and means of securing accountability for atrocities, and the design and fairness of future tribunals...The book will be of interest to lawyers, historians, and anyone (including politicians) concerned about justice and accountability for war crimes."
Ben Saul, Law & History (2017).

"This magnificent study of Australia’s prosecution, from 1945 to 1951, of 800 Japanese, Formosan and Korean individuals accused of war crimes... is the result of five years of intensive work....Within months of its publication it was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Australian History Prize 2017, awarded to a major work of non-fiction on an Australian history topic of national significance...Superb scholarship is presented...the result of fine editorship, mastery of law, history and socio-political context, open minds, gifted drafting skills as well as hours spent sieving through the mountains of materials held in the National Australian Archives. These have been further enhanced with many remarkable photographs of the individuals who people the book’s pages, the events of which authors have written and the exotic locations in which the trials took place. Further enhancing the reader’s navigation of this complex body of work...are nine helpful maps and four appendices of relevant legislation...There is a profound sense of humanity alongside depravity in Australia’s War Crimes Trials 1945–1951. The reader is presented with visions of paradise and hell on earth...While additional chapters on reparations, the Australian approach to the waiver in the San Francisco Peace Agreement and what survivors felt would have truly completed the collection, their absence does not detract from the great contribution which the editors and authors of Australia’s War Crimes Trials 1945–1951 have made."
Suzannah Linton, International and Comparative Law Quarterly (2017).
Preface; List of Abbreviations; List of Maps and Illustrations; Notes on Contributors; Maps;
Trial Context, Issues and Perspectives
Trial Context
1 The Australian War Crimes Trials, 1945–51 Tim McCormack and Narrelle Morris;
2 The Emperor’s Army: Military Operations and Ideology in the War against Australia Steven Bullard;
Legal Issues
3 Jurisdiction of the Australian Military Courts 1945–51 Tim McCormack;
4 The Australian Military Courts under the War Crimes Act 1945— Structure and Approach Michael Paes;
5 Command Responsibility and Other Grounds of Criminal Responsibility Gideon Boas and Lisa Lee;
6 Obedience to Superior Orders and Related Defences Monique Cormier and Sarah Finnin;
7 The Prosecution of Crimes against Civilians Bridget Dunne and Helen Durham;
Historical Perspectives
8 Crimes against Captured Airmen Tristan Moss and Georgina Fitzpatrick;
9 Crimes against Asians in Command Responsibility Trials Yuma Totani;
10 Cannibalism and the War Crimes Trials Georgina Fitzpatrick;
11 Death Sentences, Japanese War Criminals and the Australian Military Georgina Fitzpatrick;
Part II
Trial Locations
12 The Trials on Morotai Georgina Fitzpatrick;
13 The Trials at Wewak Georgina Fitzpatrick;
14 The Trials on Labuan Georgina Fitzpatrick;
15 The Trials in Darwin Georgina Fitzpatrick;
16 The Trials in Rabaul Georgina Fitzpatrick;
17 The Trials in Singapore Georgina Fitzpatrick;
18 The Trials in Hong Kong Georgina Fitzpatrick;
19 Last Trials: Manus Island Georgina Fitzpatrick;
Post-Trial Reflections
20 The Australian War Criminals Compounds at Rabaul and on Manus Island, 1945–53 Narrelle Morris;
21 Changing Direction: Repatriation of Japanese War Criminals in Australian Custody Dean Aszkielowicz;
22 The ‘Post-War’of the BC-Class War Criminals: How Did War Criminals React to the Australian Trials? Utsumi Aiko and Udagawa Kōta Translated by Steven Bullard;
23 Were the Australian Trials Fair? Narrelle Morris and Tim McCormack;
Appendix I War Crimes Act 1945 (Cth)
Appendix II Regulations for the Trial of War Criminals 1945 (Cth)
Appendix III Board of Inquiry List of War Crimes
Appendix IV Trials List with National Archives of Australia Series and Item Number
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