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Japanese war crimes

Japanese war crimes occurred during the period of Japanese imperialism. Some of the incidents have also been described as an Asian Holocaust and Japanese war atrocities. Some war crimes were committed by military personnel from the Empire of Japan in the late 19th century, although most took place during the first part of the Shōwa Era, the name given to the reign of Emperor Hirohito, until the military defeat of the Empire of Japan, in 1945.

Historians and governments of some countries officially hold Japanese military forces, namely the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy, responsible for killings and other crimes committed against millions of civilians and prisoners of war.

Definitions

War crimes have been defined by the Nuremberg Charter as "violations of the laws or customs of war," including crimes against enemy civilians and enemy combatants. Military personnel from the Empire of Japan have been accused and/or convicted of committing many such acts during the period of Japanese imperialism from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. They have been accused of conducting a series of human rights abuses against civilians and prisoners of war (POWs) throughout East Asia and the western Pacific region. These events reached their height during the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937–45 and the Asian and Pacific campaigns of World War II (1941-45).

International and Japanese law

Although the Empire of Japan did not sign the Geneva Conventions, which have provided the standard definition of war crimes since 1864, the crimes committed fall under other aspects of international and Japanese law. For example, many of the alleged crimes committed by Japanese personnel during World War II broke Japanese military law, and were not subject to court martial, as required by that law. The Empire also violated international agreements signed by Japan, including provisions of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) such as a ban on the use of chemical weapons and protections for prisoners of war. The Japanese government also signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1929), thereby rendering its actions in 1937-45 liable to charges of crimes against peace, a charge that was introduced at the Tokyo Trials to prosecute "Class A" war criminals. "Class B" war criminals were those found guilty of war crimes per se, and "Class C" war criminals were those guilty of crimes against humanity. The Japanese government also accepted the terms set by the Potsdam Declaration (1945) after the end of the war, including the provision in Article 10 of punishment for "all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners."

In Japan, the term "Japanese war crimes" generally only refers to cases tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Trials, following the end of the Pacific War. However, the tribunal did not prosecute war crimes allegations involving mid-ranking officers or more junior personnel. Those were dealt with separately in other cities throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Japanese law does not define those convicted in the post-1945 trials as criminals, despite the fact that Japan's governments have accepted the judgments made in the trials, and in the Treaty of San Francisco (1952). This is because the treaty does not mention the legal validity of the tribunal. Had Japan certified the legal validity of the war crimes tribunals in the San Francisco Treaty, the war crimes would have become open to appeal and overturning in Japanese courts. This would have been unacceptable in international diplomatic circles. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has advocated the position that Japan accepted the Tokyo tribunal and its judgements as a condition for ending the war, but that its verdicts have no relation to domestic law. According to this view, those convicted of war crimes are not criminals under Japanese law. This view may have been accepted by Japanese courts.

Historical and geographical extent

Outside Japan, different societies use widely different timeframes in defining Japanese war crimes. For example, the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910 was enforced by the Japanese military, and was followed by the deprivation of civil liberties and exploitation of the Korean people. Thus, some Koreans refer to "Japanese war crimes" as events occurring during the period of 1910 (or earlier) to 1945.

By comparison, the Western Allies did not come into military conflict with Japan until 1941, and North Americans, Australasians, South East Asians and Europeans may consider "Japanese war crimes" to be events that occurred in 1941-45.

Japanese war crimes were not always carried out by ethnic Japanese personnel. A small minority of people in every Asian and Pacific country invaded and/or occupied by Japan collaborated with the Japanese military, or even served in it, for a wide variety of reasons, such as economic hardship, coercion, or antipathy to other imperialist powers.

Japan's sovereignty over Korea and Formosa, in the first half of the 20th century, was recognized by international agreements — the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) and the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty (1910) — and they were considered at the time to be integral parts of the Japanese Empire. However, the legality of these treaties is in question, as the native populations were not consulted, there was armed resistance to Japan's annexations, and war crimes may also be committed during civil wars.

Background

Japanese military culture and imperialism

Main articles: Militarism-Socialism in Showa Japan, Japanese militarism, Eugenics in Showa Japan, Xenophobia in Showa Japan

Military culture, especially during Japan's imperialist phase had great bearing on the conduct of the Japanese military before and during World War II.

Centuries previously, the samurai of Japan had been taught unquestioning obedience to their lords, as well as to be fearless in battle. After the Meiji Restoration and the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Emperor became the focus of military loyalty. During the so-called "Age of Empire" in the late 19th century, Japan followed the lead of other world powers in developing an empire, pursuing that objective aggressively.

As with other imperial powers, Japanese popular culture became increasingly jingoistic through the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century. The rise of Japanese nationalism was seen partly in the adoption of Shinto as a state religion from 1890, including its entrenchment in the education system. Shinto held the Emperor to be divine because he was deemed to be a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu. This provided justification for the requirement that the emperor and his representatives be obeyed without question.

Victory in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) signified Japan's rise to the status of a major military power.

Unlike the other major powers, Japan did not sign the Geneva Convention — which stipulates the humane treatment of civilians and POWs — until after World War II. Nevertheless, an Imperial Proclamation (1894) stated that Japanese soldiers should make every effort to win the war without violating international law. According to historian Yuki Tanaka, Japanese forces during the First Sino-Japanese War, released 1,790 Chinese prisoners without harm, once they signed an agreement not to take up arms against Japan again. After the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), all 79,367 Russian Empire prisoners were released, and were paid for labour performed, in accordance with the Hague Convention. Similarly the behaviour of the Japanese military in World War I (1914-18) was at least as humane as that of other militaries.

The events of the 1930s and 1940s

By the late 1930s, the rise of militarism in Japan created at least superficial similarities between the wider Japanese military culture and that of Nazi Germany's elite military personnel, such as those in the Waffen-SS. Japan also had a military secret police force, known as the Kempeitai, which resembled the Nazi Gestapo in its role in annexed and occupied countries.

As in other dictatorships, irrational brutality, hatred and fear became commonplace. Perceived failure, or insufficient devotion to the Emperor would attract punishment, frequently of the physical kind. In the military, officers would assault and beat men under their command, who would pass the beating on to lower ranks, all the way down. In POW camps, this meant prisoners received the worst beatings of all.

The crimes

Because of the sheer scale of suffering caused by the Japanese military during the 1930s and 1940s, it is often compared to the military of Nazi Germany during 1933–45. Much of the controversy regarding Japan's role in World War II revolves around the death rates of prisoners of war and civilians under Japanese occupation. The historian Chalmers Johnson has written that:

It may be pointless to try to establish which World War Two Axis aggressor, Germany or Japan, was the more brutal to the peoples it victimised. The Germans killed six million Jews and 20 million Russians [i.e. Soviet citizens]; the Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 million of them ethnic Chinese. Both nations looted the countries they conquered on a monumental scale, though Japan plundered more, over a longer period, than the Nazis. Both conquerors enslaved millions and exploited them as forced labourers — and, in the case of the Japanese, as [[comfort women| [forced] prostitute]]s for front-line troops. If you were a Nazi prisoner of war from Britain, America, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (but not Russia) you faced a 4% chance of not surviving the war; [by comparison] the death rate for Allied POWs held by the Japanese was nearly 30%.

According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate among POWs from Asian countries, held by Japan was 27.1%. The death rate of Chinese POWs was much larger because — under a directive ratified on August 5, 1937 by Emperor Hirohito — the constraints of international law on treatment of those prisoners was removed. Only 56 Chinese POWs were released after the surrender of Japan.

Allied soldiers in Pacific and Asian theatres were guilty of the same "cruelty and callous disregard for civilized norms" as Japanese soldiers, according to historian Jeff Kingston, referring to the treatment of POWs, among other issues. Kingston quoted documentary film makers Jonathan Lewis and Ben Steele, who said: "the impression of the war as a history of Japanese savagery alone has been eroded by the growing body of evidence of Allied brutality. The issue here is less whether the two sides were as bad as each other, but whether they had more in common than was ever thought at the time...

Mass killings

R. J. Rummel, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, states that between 1937 and 1945, the Japanese military murdered from nearly 3,000,000 to over 10,000,000 people, most probably 6,000,000 Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war. This democide was due to a morally bankrupt political and military strategy, military expediency and custom, and national culture. According to Rummel, in China alone, during 1937-45, approximately 3.9 million Chinese were killed, mostly civilians, as a direct result of the Japanese operations and 10.2 millions in the course of the war.

The most infamous incident during this period was the Nanking Massacre of 1937-38, when, according to the findings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the Japanese Army massacred as many as 200,000 civilians and prisoners of war, although the accepted figure is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. Similar crime was the Changjiao massacre. In Southeast Asia, the Manila massacre, resulted in the deaths of 100,000 civilians in the Philippines and in the Sook Ching massacre, between 25,000 and 50,000 ethnic Chinese in Singapore were taken to beaches and massacred. There were numerous other massacres of civilians e.g. the Kalagong massacre.

Historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta reports that a "Three Alls Policy" (Sankō Sakusen) was implemented in China from 1942 to 1945 and was in itself responsible for the deaths of "more than 2.7 million" Chinese civilians. This scorched earth strategy, sanctioned by Hirohito himself, directed Japanese forces to "Kill All, Burn All, and Loot All."

Additionally, captured allied service personnel were massacred in various incidents, including:

Note: this is not a complete list of massacres. There were many others.

Human biological warfare experimentation

Special Japanese military units conducted experiments on civilians and POWs in China. One of the most infamous was Unit 731. Victims were subjected to vivisection without anesthesia, amputations, and were used to test biological weapons, among other experiments. Anesthesia was not used because it was considered to affect results.

To determine the treatment of frostbite, prisoners were taken outside in freezing weather and left with exposed arms, periodically drenched with water until frozen solid. The arm was later amputated; the doctor would repeat the process on the victim’s upper arm to the shoulder. After both arms were gone, the doctors moved on to the legs until only a head and torso remained. The victim was then used for plague and pathogens experiments.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the experiments carried out by Unit 731 alone caused 3,000 deaths. Furthermore, "tens of thousands, and perhaps as many as 200,000, Chinese died of bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax and other diseases...", resulting from the use of biological warfare.

One of the most notorious cases of human experimentation occurred in Japan itself. At least nine out of 12 crew members survived the crash of a U.S. Army Air Forces B-29 bomber on Kyūshū, on May 5, 1945. (This plane was Lt Marvin Watkins crew of the 29th Bomb Group of the 6th Bomb Squadron. ). The bomber's commander was sent to Tokyo for interrogation, while the other survivors were taken to the anatomy department of Kyushu University, at Fukuoka, where they were subjected to vivisection and/or killed. On March 11, 1948, 30 people including several doctors were brought to trial by the Allied war crimes tribunal. Charges of cannibalism were dropped, but 23 people were found guilty of vivisection and/or wrongful removal of body parts. Five were sentenced to death, four to life imprisonment, and the rest to shorter terms. In 1950, the military governor of Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, commuted all of the death sentences and significantly reduced most of the prison terms. All of those convicted in relation to the university vivisection were free by 1958. The freeing and reducing of these convicted men was a result of a deal between Japan and the United States, as the US Military was interested in using documented research by the Japanese for their own biological weapons program.

In 2006, former IJN medical officer Akira Makino stated that he was ordered — as part of his training — to carry out vivisection on about 30 civilian prisoners in the Philippines between December 1944 and February 1945. The surgery included amputations.

Use of chemical weapons

See also: Changde chemical weapon attack

According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, Emperor Hirohito authorized by specific orders (rinsanmei) the use of chemical weapons in China. For example, during the Battle of Wuhan from August to October 1938, the Emperor authorized the use of toxic gas on 375 separate occasions, despite Article 23 of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) and , article V of the Treaty in Relation to the Use of Submarines and Noxious Gases in Warfare and a resolution adopted by the League of Nations on May 14, condemning the use of poison gas by Japan.

In 2004, Yoshimi and Yuki Tanaka discovered in the Australian National archives documents showing that cyanide gas was tested on Australian and Dutch prisoners in November 1944 on Kai islands (Indonesia).

Preventable famine

Deaths caused by the diversion of resources to the Japanese military in occupied countries are also regarded as war crimes by many people. Millions of civilians in south-east Asia — especially Vietnam and the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), both of which were major rice-growing countries — died during a preventable famine in 1944–45. (See, for example, the articles on the Vietnamese Famine of 1945 and Japanese occupation of Indonesia.)

Torture of POWs

Japanese imperial forces are also reported to have utilized widespread use of torture on prisoners, usually in an effort to gather military intelligence quickly. Tortured prisoners were often later executed. A former Japanese Army officer who served in China, Uno Shintaro, stated:
The major means of getting intelligence was to extract information by interrogating prisoners. Torture was an unavoidable necessity. Murdering and burying them follows naturally. You do it so you won't be found out. I believed and acted this way because I was convinced of what I was doing. We carried out our duty as instructed by our masters. We did it for the sake of our country. From our filial obligation to our ancestors. On the battlefield, we never really considered the Chinese humans. When you're winning, the losers look really miserable. We concluded that the [[Yamato people|Yamato [i.e. Japanese] race]] was superior.

In the Philippines, a favorite technique of Japanese torturers was electrical shocks from an automobile battery, administered with clips attached to the nose and testicles of prisoners.

Cannibalism

Many written reports and testimonies collected by the Australian War Crimes Section of the Tokyo tribunal, and investigated by prosecutor William Webb (the future Judge-in-Chief), indicate that Japanese personnel in many parts of Asia and the Pacific committed acts of cannibalism against Allied prisoners of war. In many cases this was inspired by ever-increasing Allied attacks on Japanese supply lines, and the death and illness of Japanese personnel as a result of hunger. However, according to historian Yuki Tanaka: "cannibalism was often a systematic activity conducted by whole squads and under the command of officers". This frequently involved murder for the purpose of securing bodies. For example, an Indian POW, Havildar Changdi Ram, testified that: "[on November 12, 1944] the Kempeitai beheaded [an Allied] pilot. I saw this from behind a tree and watched some of the Japanese cut flesh from his arms, legs, hips, buttocks and carry it off to their quarters... They cut it small pieces and fried it.

In some cases, flesh was cut from living people: another Indian POW, Lance Naik Hatam Ali (later a citizen of Pakistan), testified that in New Guinea:

the Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the soldiers. I personally saw this happen and about 100 prisoners were eaten at this place by the Japanese. The remainder of us were taken to another spot 50 miles [80 km] away where 10 prisoners died of sickness. At this place, the Japanese again started selecting prisoners to eat. Those selected were taken to a hut where their flesh was cut from their bodies while they were alive and they were thrown into a ditch where they later died.

Perhaps the most senior officer convicted of cannibalism was Lt Gen. Yoshio Tachibana (立花芳夫,Tachibana Yoshio), who with 11 other Japanese personnel was tried in relation to the execution of U.S. Navy airmen, and the cannibalism of at least one of them, in August 1944, on Chichi Jima, in the Bonin Islands. They were beheaded on Tachibana's orders. As military and international law did not specifically deal with cannibalism, they were tried for murder and "prevention of honorable burial". Tachibana was sentenced to death.

Forced labor

The Japanese military's use of forced labor, by Asian civilians and POWs also caused many deaths. According to a joint study by historians including Zhifen Ju, Mitsuyoshi Himeta, Toru Kubo and Mark Peattie, more than 10 million Chinese civilians were mobilized by the Kōa-in (Japanese Asia Development Board) for forced labour. More than 100,000 civilians and POWs died in the construction of the Burma-Siam Railway.

The U.S. Library of Congress estimates that in Java, between four and 10 million romusha (Japanese: "manual laborer"), were forced to work by the Japanese military. About 270,000 of these Javanese laborers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in South East Asia. Only 52,000 were repatriated to Java, meaning that there was a death rate of 80%.

According to historian Akira Fujiwara, Emperor Hirohito personally ratified the decision to remove the constraints of international law (Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)) on the treatment of Chinese prisoners of war in the directive of 5 August 1937. This notification also advised staff officers to stop using the term "prisoners of war". The Geneva Convention exempted POWs of sergeant rank or higher from manual labour, and stipulated that prisoners performing work should be provided with extra rations and other essentials. However, Japan was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention at the time, and Japanese forces did not follow the convention.

Comfort women

The terms (or are euphemisms for women in Japanese military brothels in occupied countries, many of whom were recruited by force or deception, and regard themselves as having been sexually assaulted and/or sex slaves.

In 1992, historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi published material based on his research in archives at Japan's National Institute for Defense Studies. Yoshimi claimed that there was a direct link between imperial institutions such as the Kôa-in and "comfort stations". When Yoshimi's findings were published in the Japanese news media on January 12, 1993, they caused a sensation and forced the government, represented by Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Koichi, to acknowledge some of the facts that same day. On January 17, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa presented formal apologies for the suffering of the victims, during a trip in South Korea. On July 6 and August 4, the Japanese government issued two statements by which it recognized that "Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military of the day", "The Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women" and that the women were "recruited in many cases against their own will through coaxing and coercion".

The controversy was re-ignited on March 1, 2007, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned suggestions that a U.S. House of Representatives committee would call on the Japanese Government to "apologize for and acknowledge" the role of the Japanese Imperial military in wartime sex slavery. However, Abe denied that it applied to comfort stations. "There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it. Abe's comments provoked negative reactions overseas. For example, a New York Times editorial on March 6 said:

These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on in them was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese Army’s involvement is documented in the government’s own defense files. A senior Tokyo official more or less apologized for this horrific crime in 1993... Yesterday, he grudgingly acknowledged the 1993 quasi apology, but only as part of a pre-emptive declaration that his government would reject the call, now pending in the United States Congress, for an official apology. America isn’t the only country interested in seeing Japan belatedly accept full responsibility. Korea and China are also infuriated by years of Japanese equivocations over the issue.

The same day, veteran soldier Yasuji Kaneko admitted to The Washington Post that the women "cried out, but it didn't matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor's soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.

On April 17, 2007, Yoshimi and another historian, Hirofumi Hayashi, announced the discovery, in the archives of the Tokyo Trials, of seven official documents suggesting that Imperial military forces, such as the Tokeitai (naval secret police), directly coerced women to work in frontline brothels in China, Indochina and Indonesia. These documents were initially made public at the war crimes trial. In one of these, a lieutenant is quoted as confessing having organized a brothel and having used it himself. Another source refers to Tokeitai members having arrested women on the streets, and after enforced medical examinations, putting them in brothels.

On 12 May 2007, journalist Taichiro Kaijimura announced the discovery of 30 Netherland government documents submitted to the Tokyo tribunal as evidence of a forced massed prostitution incident in 1944 in Magelang.

In other cases, some victims from East Timor testified they were forced when they were not old enough to have started menstruating and repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers.

A Dutch-Indonesian "comfort woman", Jan Ruff-O'Hearn (now resident in Australia), who gave evidence to the U.S. committee, said the Japanese Government had failed to take responsibility for its crimes, that it did not want to pay compensation to victims and that it wanted to rewrite history. Ruff-O'Hearn said that she had been raped "day and night" for three months by Japanese soldiers when she was 21.

To this day, only one Japanese woman published her testimony. This was done in 1971, when a former "comfort woman" forced to work for showa soldiers in Taiwan, published her memoirs under the pseudonym of Suzuko Shirota.

There are different theories on the breakdown of the comfort women's place of origin. While some sources claim that the majority of the women were from Japan, others, including Yoshimi, argue as many as 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, and some other countries such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, Netherlands, and Australia were forced to engage in sexual activity.

On 26 June 2007, the U.S. House of representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution asking that Japan "should acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its military's coercion of women into sexual slavery during the war". On 30 July 2007, the House of Representatives passed the resolution, while Shinzo Abe said this decision was "regrettable".

Looting

Many historians state that the Japanese government and individual military personnel engaged in widespread looting during the period of 1895 to 1945. The stolen property included private land, as well as many different kinds of valuable goods looted from banks, depositories, temples, churches, other commercial premises, mosques, museums and private homes.

Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, in their 2003 book Gold Warriors: America’s secret recovery of Yamashita's gold — report that secret repositories of loot from across Southeast Asia, were created by the Japanese military in the Philippines during 1942–45. They allege that the theft was organized on a massive scale, either by yakuza gangsters such as Yoshio Kodama, or by officials at the behest of Emperor Hirohito, who wanted to ensure that as many of the proceeds as possible went to the government. The Seagraves also allege that Hirohito appointed his brother, Prince Chichibu, to head a secret organisation called Kin no yuri (Golden Lily) for this purpose.

Post-war events and reactions

Soon after the war, the Allied powers indicted 25 individuals as Class-A war criminals, and 5,700 individuals were indicted as Class-B or Class-C war criminals by Allied criminal trials. Of these, 984 were initially condemned to death, 920 were actually executed, 475 received life sentences, 2,944 received some prison terms, 1,018 were acquitted, and 279 were not sentenced or not brought to trial. These numbers included 178 ethnic Taiwanese and 148 ethnic Koreans. The Class-A charges were all tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as "the Tokyo Trials". Other courts were formed in many different places in Asia and the Pacific.

The Tokyo Trials

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East was formed to try accused people in Japan itself.

High ranking officers who were tried included Koichi Kido and Sadao Araki. Three former (unelected) prime ministers: Koki Hirota, Hideki Tojo, and Kuniaki Koiso were convicted of Class-A war crimes. Many military leaders were also convicted. Two people convicted as Class-A war criminals later served as ministers in post-war Japanese governments.

  • Mamoru Shigemitsu served as foreign minister both during the war and in the post-war Hatoyama government.
  • Okinori Kaya was finance minister during the war and later served as justice minister in the government of Hayato Ikeda. However, these two had no direct connection to alleged war crimes committed by Japanese forces, and foreign governments never raised the issue when they were appointed.

Hirohito and all members of the imperial family implicated in the war such as Prince Chichibu, Prince Asaka, Prince Takeda and Prince Higashikuni were exonerated from criminal prosecutions by MacArthur, with the help of Bonner Fellers who allowed the major criminal suspects to coordinate their stories so that the Emperor would be spared from indictment. Many historians criticize this decision. According to John Dower, "with the full support of MacArthur's headquarters, the prosecution functioned, in effect, as a defense team for the emperor and even Japanese activists who endorse the ideals of the Nuremberg and Tokyo charters, and who have labored to document and publicize the atrocities of the Showa regime "cannot defend the American decision to exonerate the emperor of war responsibility and then, in the chill of the Cold war, release and soon afterwards openly embrace accused right-winged war criminals like the later prime minister Nobusuke Kishi. For Herbert Bix, "MacArthur's truly extraordinary measures to save Hirohito from trial as a war criminal had a lasting and profoundly distorting impact on Japanese understanding of the lost war.

Other trials

Between 1946–51, some 5,600 Japanese personnel were prosecuted in more than 2,200 trials outside Japan. The judges presiding came from the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, France, the Soviet Union, New Zealand, India and the Philippines. Additionally, the Chinese Communists also held a number of trials for Japanese personnel. More than 4,400 Japanese personnel were convicted and about 1,000 were sentenced to death. The largest single trial was that of 93 Japanese personnel charged with the summary execution of more than 300 Allied POWs, in the Laha massacre (1942).

The most prominent ethnic Korean convicted was Lieutenant General Hong Sa Ik, who orchestrated the organization of prisoner of war camps in south east Asia. In 2006, the South Korean government "pardoned" 83 of the 148 convicted Korean war criminals.

Official apologies

The Japanese government considers that the legal and moral positions in regard to war crimes are separate. Therefore, while maintaining that Japan violated no international law or treaties, Japanese governments have officially recognised the suffering which the Japanese military caused, and numerous apologies have been issued by the Japanese government. For example, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, in August 1995, stated that Japan "through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations", and he expressed his "feelings of deep remorse" and stated his "heartfelt apology". Also, on September 29, 1972, Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka stated: "[t]he Japanese side is keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan caused in the past to the Chinese people through war, and deeply reproaches itself.

However, the official apologies are widely viewed as inadequate or only a symbolic exchange by many of the survivors of such crimes and/or the families of dead victims. On October 2006, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed an apology for the damage caused by its colonial rule and aggression, more than 80 Japanese lawmakers from his ruling party LDP paid visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. Many people aggrieved by Japanese war crimes also maintain that no apology has been issued for particular acts and/or that the Japanese government has merely expressed "regret" or "remorse". On 2 March 2007, the issue was raised again by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, in which he denied that the military had forced women into sexual slavery during World War II. He stated, "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion." Before he spoke, a group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers also sought to revise Yohei Kono's 1993 apology to former comfort women. However, this provoked negative reaction from Asian and Western countries.

Some in Japan have asserted that what is being demanded is that the Japanese Prime Minister and/or the Emperor perform dogeza, in which an individual kneels and bows his head to the ground — a high form of apology in east Asian societies that Japan appears unwilling to do. Some point to an act by German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who knelt at a monument to the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto, in 1970, as an example of a powerful and effective act of apology and reconciliation similar to dogeza, although not everyone agrees.

Citing Brandt's action as an example, John Borneman, associate professor of anthropology at Cornell, states that, "an apology represents a non-material or purely symbolic exchange whereby the wrongdoer voluntarily lowers his own status as a person." Borneman further states that once this type of apology is given, the injured party must forgive and seek reconciliation, or else the apology won't have any effect. The injured party may reject the apology for several reasons, one of which is to prevent reconciliation, because, "By keeping the memory of the wound alive, refusals prevent an affirmation of mutual humanity by instrumentalizing the power embedded in the status of a permanent victim.

Therefore, some argue that a nation's reluctance to accept the conciliatory gestures that Japan has made may be because that nation doesn't think that Japan has "lowered" itself enough to provide a sincere apology. On the other hand, others state their belief that that particular nation is choosing to reject reconciliation in pursuit of permanent "victimhood" status as a way to try to assert power over Japan.

Compensation

There is a widespread perception that the Japanese government has not accepted the legal responsibility for compensation and, as a direct consequence of this denial, it has failed to compensate the individual victims of Japanese atrocities. In particular, a number of prominent human rights and women's rights organisations insist that Japan still has a moral and/or legal responsibility to compensate individual victims, especially the sex slaves conscripted by the Japanese military in occupied countries and known as comfort women.

The Japanese government officially accepted the requirement for monetary compensation to victims of war crimes, as specified by the Potsdam Declaration. The details of this compensation have been left to bilateral treaties with individual countries, except North Korea, because Japan recognises South Korea as the sole legitimate government of the Korean peninsula. In the Asian countries involved, claims to compensation were either abandoned by their respective countries, or were paid out by Japan under the specific understanding that it was to be used for individual compensation. However, in some cases such as with South Korea, the compensation was not paid out to victims by their governments, instead being used for civic projects and other works. Due to this, large number of individual victims in Asia received no compensation.

Therefore, the Japanese government's position is that the proper avenues for further claims are the governments of the respective claimants. As a result, every individual compensation claim brought to Japanese court has failed. Such was the case in regard to a British POW who was unsuccessful in an attempt to sue the Japanese government for additional money for compensation. As a result, the UK Government later paid additional compensation to all British POWs. There were complaints in Japan that the international media simply stated that the former POW was demanding compensation and failed to clarify that he was seeking further compensation, in addition to that paid previously by the Japanese government.

A small number of claims have also been brought in US courts, though these have also been rejected.

During the treaty negotiation with South Korea, the Japanese government proposed that it pay monetary compensation to individual Korean victims, in line with the payments to western POWs. The Korean government instead insisted that Japan pay money collectively to the Korean government, and that is what occurred. The South Korean government then used the funds for economic development. The content of the negotiations was not released by the Korean government until 2004, although it was public knowledge in Japan. Due to the release of the information by the Korean government, a number of claimants have stepped forward and are attempting to sue the government for individual compensation of victims.

There are those that insist that because the governments of China and Taiwan abandoned their claims for monetary compensation, then the moral and/or legal responsibility for compensation belongs with these governments. Such critics also point out that even though these governments abandoned their claims, they signed treaties that recognised the transfer of Japanese colonial assets to the respective governments. Therefore, to claim that these governments received no compensation from Japan is incorrect, and they could have compensated individual victims from the proceeds of such transfers. However, others dispute that Japanese colonial assets in large proportion were built or stolen with extortion or force in occupied countries, as was clearly the case with artworks collected (or stolen) by Nazis during WWII throughout Europe.

The Japanese government, while admitting no legal responsibility for the so-called "comfort women", set up the Asian Women's Fund in 1995, which gives money to people who claim to have been forced into prostitution during the war. Though the organisation was established by the government, legally, it has been created such that it is an independent charity. The activities of the fund have been controversial in Japan, as well as with international organisations supporting the women concerned. Some argue that such a fund is part of an ongoing refusal by the Japanese government to face up to its responsibilities, while others say that the Japanese government has long since finalised its responsibility to individual victims and is merely correcting the failures of the victims' own governments.

The reality is that without a sincere and unequivocal apology from the government of Japan, the majority of surviving Comfort Women refused to accept these funds.

Intermediate compensation

The term "intermediate compensation" (or intermediary compensation) was applied to the removal and reallocation of Japanese industrial (particularly military-industrial) assets to Allied countries. It was conducted under the supervision of Allied occupation forces. This reallocation was referred to as "intermediate" because it did not amount to a final settlement by means of bilateral treaties, which settled all existing issues of compensation. By 1950, the assets reallocated amounted to 43,918 items of machinery, valued at ¥165,158,839 (in 1950 prices). The proportions in which the assets were distributed were: China, 54.1%; the Netherlands, 11.5%; the Philippines 19%, and; the United Kingdom, 15.4%.

Compensation under the San Francisco Treaty

Compensation from Japanese overseas assets
Japanese overseas assets refers to all assets owned by the Japanese government, firms, organisation and private citizens, in colonised or occupied countries. In accordance with Clause 14 of the San Francisco Treaty, Allied forces confiscated all Japanese overseas assets, except those in China, which were dealt with under Clause 21. It is considered that Korea was also entitled to the rights provided by Clause 21.

Japanese overseas assets in 1945
Country/region Value (1945, ¥15=US$1)
Korea 70,256,000,000
Taiwan 42,542,000,000
North East China 146,532,000,000
North China 55,437,000,000
Central South China 36,718,000,000
Others 28,014,000,000
Total ¥379,499,000,000

Compensation to Allied POWs
Clause 16 of the San Francisco Treaty stated that Japan would transfer its assets and those of its citizens in countries which were at war with any of the Allied Powers or which were neutral, or equivalents, to the Red Cross, which would sell them and distribute the funds to former prisoners of war and their families. Accordingly, the Japanese government and private citizens paid out £4,500,000 to the Red Cross.
Allied territories occupied by Japan
Clause 14 of the treaty stated that Japan would enter into negotiations with Allied powers whose territories were occupied by Japan and suffered damage by Japanese forces, with a view to Japan compensating those countries for the damage.

Accordingly, the Philippines and South Vietnam received compensation in 1956 and 1959 respectively. Burma and Indonesia were not original signatories, but they later signed bilateral treaties in accordance with clause 14 of the San Francisco Treaty.

Japanese compensation to countries occupied during 1941-45
Country Amount in Yen Amount in US$ Date of treaty
Burma 72,000,000,000 200,000,000 November 5, 1955
Philippines 198,000,000,000 550,000,000 May 9, 1956
Indonesia 80,388,000,000 223,080,000 January 20, 1958
Vietnam 14,400,000,000 38,000,000 May 13, 1959
Total ¥364,348,800,000 US$1,012,080,000

The last payment was made to the Philippines on July 22, 1976.

Debate in Japan

There is a widespread perception, outside Japan, that there is a reluctance inside Japan to discuss such events and/or admit that there were war crimes. However, the controversial events of the Japanese imperial era are openly debated in the media, with the various political parties and ideological groups taking quite different positions. What differentiates Japan from Germany and Austria is that in Japan, there is no restriction to the freedom of speech in regard to this matter, while in Germany, Austria and some other European countries, Holocaust denial is a criminal offence.

Until the 1970s, such debates were considered a fringe topic in the media. In the Japanese media, the opinions of the political centre and left tend to dominate the editorials of newspapers, while the right tend to dominate magazines. Debates regarding war crimes were confined largely to the editorials of tabloid magazines where calls for the overthrow of "Imperialist America" and revived veneration of the Emperor coexisted with pornography. In 1972, to commemorate the normalisation of relationship with China, Asahi Shimbun, a major liberal newspaper, ran a series on Japanese war crimes in China including the Nanking Massacre. This opened the floodgates to debates which have continued ever since. The 1990s are generally considered to be the period in which such issues become truly mainstream, and incidents such as the Nanking Massacre, Yasukuni Shrine, comfort women, the accuracy of school history textbooks, and the validity of the Tokyo Trials were debated, even on television.

As the consensus of Japanese jurists is that Japanese forces did not technically commit violations of international law, many right wing elements in Japan have taken this to mean that war crimes trials were examples of victor's justice. They see those convicted of war crimes as , Shōwa being the name given to the rule of Hirohito. This interpretation is vigorously contested by Japanese peace groups and the political left. In the past, these groups have tended to argue that the trials hold some validity, either under the Geneva Convention (even though Japan hadn't signed it), or under an undefined concept of international law or consensus. Alternatively, they have argued that, although the trials may not have been technically valid, they were still just, somewhat in line with popular opinion in the West and in the rest of Asia.

By the early 21st century, the revived interest in Japan's imperial past had brought new interpretations from a group which has been labelled both "new right" and "new left". This group points out that many acts committed by Japanese forces, including the Nanjing Incident (they generally do not use the word "massacre"), were violations of the Japanese military code. It is suggested that had war crimes tribunals been conducted by the post-war Japanese government, in strict accordance with Japanese military law, many of those who were accused would still have been convicted and executed. Therefore, the moral and legal failures in question were the fault of the Japanese military and the government, for not executing their constitutionally-defined duty.

The new right/new left also takes the view that the Allies committed no war crimes against Japan, because Japan was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention, and as a victors, the Allies had every right to demand some form of retribution, to which Japan consented in various treaties.

However, under the same logic, the new right/new left considers the killing of Chinese who were suspected of guerilla activity to be perfectly legal and valid, including some of those killed at Nanjing, for example. They also take the view that many Chinese civilian casualties resulted from the scorched earth tactics of the Chinese nationalists. Though such tactics are arguably legal, the new right/new left takes the position that some of the civilian deaths caused by these scorched earth tactics are wrongly attributed to the Japanese military.

Similarly, they take the position that those who have attempted to sue the Japanese government for compensation have no legal and/or moral case.

The new right/new left also takes a less sympathetic view of Korean claims of victimhood, because prior to annexation by Japan, Korea was a tributary of the Qing Dynasty and, according to them, the Japanese colonisation, though undoubtedly harsh, was better than the previous rule in terms of human rights and economic development.

They also argue that, the Kantōgun (also known as the Kwantung Army) was at least partly culpable. Although the Kantōgun was nominally subordinate to the Japanese high command at the time, its leadership demonstrated significant self-determination, as shown by its involvement in the plot to assassinate Zhang Zuolin in 1928, and the Manchurian Incident of 1931, which led to the foundation of Manchukuo in 1932. Moreover, at that time, it was the official policy of the Japanese high command to confine the conflict to Manchuria. But in defiance of the high command, the Kantōgun invaded China proper, under the pretext of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. However, the Japanese government not only failed to court martial the officers responsible for these incidents, but it also accepted the war against China, and many of those who were involved were even promoted. (Some of the officers involved in the Nanking Massacre were also promoted.)

Whether or not Hirohito himself bears any responsibility for such failures is a sticking point between the new right and new left. Officially, the imperial constitution, adopted under Emperor Meiji, gave full powers to the Emperor. Article 4 prescribed that "The Emperor is the head of the Empire, combining in Himself the rights of sovereignty, and exercises them, according to the provisions of the present Constitution" and article 11 prescribed that "The Emperor has the supreme command of the Army and the Navy". For historian Akira Fujiwara, the thesis that the emperor as an organ of responsibility could not reverse cabinet decisions is a myth (shinwa) fabricated after the war. Others argue that Hirohito deliberately styled his rule in the manner of the British constitutional monarchy, and he always accepted the decisions and consenses reached by the high command. According to this position, the moral and political failure rests primarily with the Japanese High Command and the Cabinet, most of whom were later convicted at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal as class-A war criminals, apart all members of the imperial family such as prince Chichibu, prince Asaka, prince Higashikuni, prince Fushimi and prince Takeda.

Controversial reinterpretations outside Japan

Some activists outside Japan are also attempting controversial reinterpretations of Japanese imperialism. For example, the views of a South Korean ex-military officer and right wing commentator, Ji Man-Won, have caused controversy in Korea and further abroad. Ji has praised Japan for "modernising" Korea, and has said of women forced to become sex slaves: "most of the old women claiming to be former comfort women, or sex slaves to the Japanese military during World War II, are fakes." In East Asia, such views are widely regarded as being offensive, libellous of the women concerned, and as representing historical revisionism in a similar fashion to the Holocaust deniers of Europe.

Later investigations

As with investigations of Nazi war criminals, official investigations and inquiries are still ongoing. During the 1990s, the South Korean government started investigating some individuals who had allegedly become wealthy while collaborating with the Japanese military. In South Korea, it is also alleged that, during the political climate of the Cold War, many such individuals and/or their associates or relatives were able to acquire influence with the wealth they had acquired collaborating with the Japanese and assisted in the covering-up, or non-investigation, of war crimes in order not to incriminate themselves. With the wealth they had amassed during the years of collaboration, they were able to further benefit their families by obtaining higher education for their relatives.

Non-government bodies and individuals have also undertaken their own investigations. For example, in 2005, a South Korean freelance journalist, Jung Soo-woong, located in Japan some descendants of people involved in the 1895 assassination of Empress Myeongseong (Queen Min), the last Empress of Korea. The assassination was conducted by the Dark Ocean Society, perhaps under the auspices of the Japanese government, because of the Empress's involvement in attempts to reduce Japanese influence in Korea. Jung recorded the apologies of the individuals.

As these investigations continue more evidence is discovered each day. It has been claimed that the Japanese government intentionally destroyed the reports on Korean comfort women. Some have cited Japanese inventory logs and employee sheets on the battlefield as evidence for this claim. For example, one of the names on the list was of a comfort woman who stated she was forced to be a prostitute by the Japanese. She was classified as a nurse along with at least a dozen other verified comfort women who were not nurses or secretaries. Currently, the South Korean government is looking into the hundreds of other names on these lists.

Sensitive information regarding the Japanese occupation of Korea is often difficult to obtain. Many argue that this is due to the fact that the Government of Japan has gone out of its way to cover up many incidents that would otherwise lead to severe international criticism. On their part, Koreans have often expressed their abhorrence of Human experimentations carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army where people often became fodder as human test subjects in such macabre experiments as liquid nitrogen tests or biological weapons development programs (See articles: Unit 731 and Shiro Ishii). Though some vivid and disturbing testimonies have survived, they are largely denied by the Japanese Government even to this day.

List of major incidents

See also

References

Notes

Books

  • Barnaby, Wendy. The Plague Makers: The Secret World of Biological Warfare, Frog Ltd, 1999. ISBN 1-883319-85-4 ISBN 0-7567-5698-7 ISBN 0-8264-1258-0 ISBN 0-8264-1415-X
  • Bass, Gary Jonathan. Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Trials. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.
  • Bayly, C.A. & Harper T. Forgotten Armies. The Fall of British Asia 1941-5 (London: Allen Lane) 2004
  • Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.
  • Bergamini, David. Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, William Morrow, New York, 1971.
  • Brackman, Arnold C. The Other Nuremberg: the Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1987.
  • Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking, Perseus books LLC, 1997. ISBN 0-465-06835-9
  • Cook, Haruko Taya; Theodore F. Cook (1993). Japan at War: An Oral History. New Press. ISBN 1-56584-039-9.- Compilation of interviews with Japanese survivors of World War II, including several who describe war crimes that they were involved with.
  • Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. New York: New Press, 1999.
  • Dower, John W. (1987). War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 0-394-75172-8.
  • Endicott, Stephen and Edward Hagerman. The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea, Indiana University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-253-33472-1
  • Frank, Richard B. (1999). Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Gold, Hal. Unit 731 Testimony, Charles E Tuttle Co., 1996. ISBN 4-900737-39-9
  • Handelman, Stephen and Ken Alibek. Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World--Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It, Random House, 1999. ISBN 0-375-50231-9 ISBN 0-385-33496-6
  • Harries, Meirion; Susie Harries (1994). Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-679-75303-6.
  • Harris, Robert and Jeremy Paxman. A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret History of Chemical and Biological Warfare, Random House, 2002. ISBN 0-8129-6653-8
  • Harris, Sheldon H. Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and the American Cover-Up, Routledge, 1994. ISBN 0-415-09105-5 ISBN 0-415-93214-9
  • Holmes, Linda Goetz (2001). Unjust Enrichment: How Japan's Companies Built Postwar Fortunes Using American POWs. Mechanicsburg, PA, USA: Stackpole Books.
  • Horowitz, Solis. "The Tokyo Trial" International Conciliation 465 (November 1950), 473-584.
  • Kratoksa, Paul (2005). Asian Labor in the Wartime Japanese Empire: Unknown Histories. M.E. Sharpe and Singapore University Press. ISBN 0765612631.
  • Lael, Richard L. (1982). The Yamashita Precedent: War Crimes and Command Responsibility. Wilmington, Del, USA: Scholarly Resources.
  • Latimer, Jon, Burma: The Forgotten War, London: John Murray, 2004. ISBN 0-7195-6576-6
  • Lord, of Liverpool Russell (2006). The Knights of Bushido: A Short History of Japanese War Crimes. Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-651-9.
  • Maga, Timothy P. (2001). Judgment at Tokyo: The Japanese War Crimes Trials. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2177-9.
  • Minear, Richard H. (1971). Victor's Justice: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
  • Neier, Aryeh. War Crimes: Brutality, Genocide, Terror and the Struggle for Justice," Times Books, Random House, New York, 1998.
  • Piccigallo, Philip R. (1979). The Japanese on Trial: Allied War Crimes Operations in the East, 1945-1951. Austin, Texas, USA: University of Texas Press.
  • Rees, Laurence. Horror in the East, published 2001 by the British Broadcasting Company
  • Seagrave, Sterling & Peggy. ''Gold warriors: America’s secret recovery of Yamashita’s gold , Verso Books, 2003. ISBN 1-85984-542-8
  • Sherman, Christine (2001). War Crimes: International Military Tribunal. Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 1563117282.-Detailed account of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East proceedings in Tokyo
  • Tsurumi, Kazuko (1970). Social change and the individual;: Japan before and after defeat in World War II. Princeton, USA: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09347-4.
  • Williams, Peter. Unit 731: Japan's Secret Biological Warfare in World War II, Free Press, 1989. ISBN 0-02-935301-7
  • Yamamoto, Masahiro (2000). Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-96904-5.- A rebuttal to Iris Chang's book on the Nanking massacre.

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