the trials of Japan’s major war criminals, held in Tokyo between May 3,1946, and Nov. 12,1948, before the International War Tribunal for the Far East. The Tokyo Trials were convened in accordance with the terms set forth in the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, regarding the punishment of war criminals and in compliance with the Instrument of Surrender signed by Japan on Sept. 2,1945, which pledged “to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration in good faith.”
The tribunal heard the cases of 28 Japanese leaders indicted for war crimes and handed down judgments against 25 of them. Those tried and convicted were Tojo Hideki and three other former prime ministers—Hiranuma Kiichiro, Hirota Koki, and Koiso Kuniaki; 11 former ministers—Araki Sadao, Hata Shunro-ku, Hoshino Naoki, Itagaki Seishiro, Kaya Okinoro, Kido Koi-chi, Minami Jiro, Shigemitsu Mamuru, Shimada Shigetaro, Suzuki Teiichi, and Togo Shigenori; two ambassadors—Oshima Horishi and Shiratori Toshio; and eight members of the Imperial General Headquarters—Doihara Kenji, Hashimoto Kingoro, Kimura Heitaro, Matsui Iwane, Muto Akira, Oka Takasumi, Sato Kenryo, and Umezu Yoshijiro. Two other accused leaders, former Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke and Admiral Nagano Osami, died during the proceedings, and their trial was discontinued. Similarly, the trial of Okawa Shumei, the ideologist of Japanese imperialism, was suspended when he became afflicted with progressive paralysis.
The tribunal held 818 open sessions and 131 closed sessions, during which it considered 4,356 pieces of documentary evidence and the testimony of 1,194 witnesses, 419 of whom testified in court. The accused were granted the right to defend themselves, submit evidence, and question witnesses; they were also allowed three or four attorneys each to assist them in their defense. At the end of the trials, the defendants’ guilt was fully established. Thus, on Nov. 4, 1948, after deliberations lasting more than six months, the tribunal began reading its decision, which ran to 1,214 pages.
The tribunal declared that in the period under consideration, 1928 to 1945, Japan had pursued a domestic and foreign policy geared toward aggressive war. It concluded that the defendants, in alliance with the leaders of fascist Germany and Italy, had aimed at attaining world domination, with the consequent enslavement of other nations. The tribunal examined in detail Japan’s acts of aggression against the USSR, finding them to have been part of Tokyo’s overall plan. It also pointed out that for a period of years Japan had waged aggressive war in China, its troops plundering and killing Chinese civilians, and that in December 1941 the Japanese military had attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, as well as the cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, without a declaration of war.
The evidence accumulated in the course of the trials made manifest the real intentions behind Japan’s “new order” in East Asia. It also laid bare the expansionist designs of the Japanese imperialists, who, in order to conceal their efforts to create the pan-Asian empire of Yamato, had employed such deceptive slogans as Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
The tribunal sentenced Tojo, Hirota, Itagaki, Doihara, Kimura, and Muto to death by hanging and imposed prison sentences of 20 years and seven years on Togo and Shigemitsu, respectively. The remaining 16 defendants received life imprisonment. The death sentences were carried out in Tokyo on the night of Dec. 22–23,1948.
The Tokyo Trials, like the Nuremberg Trials, were of great importance in affirming the principles of international law. They cited these principles in declaring aggression to be a grave crime.