Tokyo Tribunal's verdict on war crimes undisputable
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-06-08 06:24

Several veteran Japanese politicians have suggested last week that the remains of the 14 Class-A war criminals be removed from the Yasukuni Shrine, where some 2.5 million war dead are honoured.

However, Yasukuni's operators, a religious group headed by a Shinto priest, issued in a statement on Sunday, that the shrine would not do so.

Prosecutors, defence attorneys and justices at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The tribunal was established on January 19, 1946, when General Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander for the Allied Powers, issued a special proclamation. Eleven judges, nine from the nations that signed the Instrument of Surrender, one from India and one from the Commonwealth of the Phillippine, were eventually appointed by the commander. [file]
Because, it said, the outcome of the Tokyo war crimes tribunal remains controversial.

The statement was almost the same as Masahiro Morioka, parliamentary secretary for health, labour and welfare, who argued at a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) late last month that Class-A war criminals were no longer regarded as criminals in Japan.

He even condemned the Tokyo war crimes tribunal as "a unilateral tribunal."

"Class-A, Class-B, Class-C war criminals were decided at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. It was a one-sided trial fixed by the occupation forces," Morioka was quoted as saying.

But the truth is that "it could hardly be one-sided, it was 12 nations, 11 judges representing 12 nations on the bench," Dr Robert Donihi, who served as a prosecuting lawyer at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Donihi participated in the trial of Class-A war criminals in Tokyo in between 1946 and 1948, told Xinhua.

Donihi said it was true the occupation of Japan after WWII was by the United States, but the tribunal was an international tribunal.

Donihi, already in his 90s, said Morioka might want to say that the views of all the nations on the tribunal were illegal except for his own. "He is taking a very biased position," Donihi said.

"I can't understand. It's too bad the Japanese people don't seem to be able to shoulder their responsibility for the war crimes" 60 years after the war was over, Donihi said.

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) was sufficiently justified and its verdicts had unique historic significance in the subsequent development of international law, said son of the Chinese Judge at the Tribunal in Beijing last Wednesday.

Mei Xiao'ao, son of Mei Ru'ao, the only Chinese judge at the tribunal, made the above comments during an exclusive interview with Xinhua in response to the recent remarks made by two Japanese right-wing politicians attempting to whitewash the Japanese atrocities.

The IMTFE, operating from early 1946 until the end of 1948, was composed of 11 judges from 11 nations, including the United States, China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and Australia.

According to the junior Mei, whose father passed away in 1973, warfare should be categorized as being "just" and "unjust."

"The war initiated by the Japanese militarists six decades ago, which aimed at aggression against Asian countries, was completely unjust," said Mei, who currently works for a Beijing-based media company.

"It was natural for the Japanese militarists to be defeated and the result of the War exceeds simple military victory," said the 53-year-old son of the well-known judge.

"My presence at the tribunal was gained at the cost of the blood and flesh of millions of my fellow countrymen," Mei junior quoted from his father's diary on May 3, 1946.

Defining the nature of the Tribunal's verdicts as an endeavour through which international justice defeats Fascist evil forces, Mei Xiao'ao emphasized that one of the tribunal's major contributions to the development of international law lies in clarifying the principle of punishing individuals responsible for war and preventing crimes against peace and humanity from being shielded by the name of ambiguous "statehood."

Commenting on the Tokyo-based IMTFE and the Nuremberg Tribunal following World War II, distinguished Chinese legislator Wang Tieya once called both tribunals milestones in international law and said their historic significance would "never be obliterated."

In addition, the Tokyo Tribunal followed strict legal procedure and granted adequate space for the war criminals to defend themselves.

The international trial lasted two years and seven months, held 818 open hearings, involving 419 witnesses who attended the court and 779 who sent their written testimonies, with verdicts totaling 1,231 pages and taking seven days to read.

"The trial is not one-sided as is being portrayed by the Japanese right-wing politicians," said Mei.

Although it set many valuable precedents, the Tokyo tribunal was still "barely satisfactory" in that it left quite a few "regrets" unattended in the eyes of his father, said Mei Xiao'ao, naming the escape of the then Japanese emperor from legal punishment as the biggest pity.

"We obtained much evidence indicating that the Japanese emperor was closely responsible for the war crimes committed by the Japanese troops during the World War II and the proof was sufficient to have him convicted," said the Judge Mei in a previous article.

Actually, the majority of the 11 judges ruling at the Tokyo Tribunal considered the emperor guilty but were unable to put him on trial because the United States Government excluded the emperor from being sued in accordance with its global strategies.

Even so, the junior Mei said that the Tokyo Tribunal, although unavoidably flawed, was still very much in support of "reason, fairness and justice" and "constituted one of the critical efforts made by the mankind to improve their lives."

Spirit of tribunal vs. denial

"The spirit and essence upheld by the Tribunal should continue to inspire the human society for generations to come," said Mei junior.

Jin Xide, a researcher at the Institute of Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "The undisguised attempt to deny the Tokyo verdict, one of the foundations for the world's post-World War II political structure, and increasing intention by Japanese politicians to beautify the country's past aggression, are very seldom and serious in the history of Japan.

"It also clearly demonstrates that Japan's domestic politics has already gone too far along the road of rightism."

Since taking office in 2001, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has paid four visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, making him the prime minister who has paid the most visits to the shrine during term of office.

All his visits provoked strong oppositions from neighbouring countries.

"The Yasukuni Shrine issue is by no means an internal affair of Japan just as some of its politicians have said. It has proved one of the largest factors, which has seriously deteriorated and, if not properly handled, will further deteriorate Japan's ties with its victimized nations," Jin said.

It is unimaginable that some Japanese politicians still try to defend the country's history of aggression after half a century. Such moves have also put the country's wishes to improve ties with neighbours under deep doubt.

"Yasukuni-related words and actions made by Koizumi and other top Japanese officials have greatly discounted the country's sincerity of pursuing smooth relations with China," said Zhang Lili, a professor at the Foreign Affairs College.

"Yasukuni Shrine, which honours war criminals who committed heinous crimes against the Chinese people, is by no means a common place for the dead," said Yang Li, a medical worker in Beijing. "Paying tribute to it means paying tribute to the criminals in it."

"We Chinese, among other victims, surely will not endure any act of paying respect to the killers," she said.

"Hundreds of thousands of our civilians were slaughtered in the Nanjing Massacre alone, and a large number of our sisters were forced to be "comfort women" for Japanese soldiers. I feel indignant and disgusted when these are mentioned," Yang said.

It is unimaginable for Koizumi to say sorry to the Chinese victims on the one hand and pay tribute to the key culprits on the other, according to Tao Nengwei, a university teacher in Beijing.

"Compared with Germany, Japan's performances have disappointed us," he said. "Japan has no choice but to sincerely apologize to its victims first and then take concrete actions to build mutual trust with their neighbours."

(China Daily 06/08/2005 page5)

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