Law Reports of the Australian War Crimes Trials 1945-1951

Volume 1: Reports of the Trials: Morotai, Wewak, Labuan and Darwin

Volume Editors: and
This is the first volume of a new 5-volume reference work which rectifies a lamentable gap in access to rich war crimes trial jurisprudence from the post-World War II era. The 5 volumes will compile a comprehensive and systematic collection of Law Reports of the 300 trials by Australian Military Courts held between 1945 and 1951. Those trials were held in eight locations and reports of the trials are grouped according to location. To introduce each trial location, a contextual essay provides background analysis explaining why the particular trials were conducted in that location.

This first volume includes reports for each of the 46 trials conducted in Morotai, Wewak, Labuan and Darwin in 1945-46. Given the lack of written reasons for judgment, these law reports draw extensively on the trial transcripts, including a description of prosecution and defence arguments, relevant legal issues, judgments and sentences. Launched at a propitious time in which Australia is engaged in a significant criminal investigation of alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, the reference work provides a rich and unrivalled resource and will be of lasting value both within Australia and outside it amongst scholars of the history of World War II and the development of international criminal law as well as to practitioners involved in contemporary war crimes trials. Many other Allied nations conducted their own military trials in both the European and Pacific theatres post-WWII, and the Australian experience, documented in these unique volumes, offers an important template for other national initiatives of this kind.

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Tim McCormack is Professor of International Law at the University of Tasmania and the Special Adviser on War Crimes to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Humanitarian Law Series published by Brill Nijhoff and he was the Chief Investigator of the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project Australia’s Post-World War II War Crimes Trials of the Japanese: A Systematic and Comprehensive Law Reports Series which funded the research reflected in this and subsequent volumes of the new reference work. That project was undertaken in collaboration with the Australian War Memorial and with the Legal Division of the Australian Government’s Department of Defence.

Narrelle Morris is an Associate Professor in the Curtin Law School, Curtin University in Western Australia. She is the principal legal researcher on the ARC project on Australia’s Post-World War II War Crimes Trials of the Japanese. She is the author of Japan-bashing: Anti-Japanism since the 1980s (Routledge, 2010) and Japanese War Crimes in the Pacific: Australia’s Investigations and Prosecutions (National Archives of Australia, 2019). Narrelle Morris and Tim McCormack (along with Georgina Fitzpatrick) were also editors of, and contributing authors to, Australia’s War Crimes Trials 1945–51 (Brill/Nijhoff, 2016), which was shortlisted in 2017 for the New South Wales Premier’s Award for Australian History.
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