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Over 1,000 Chinese witnesses came forth to testify in the trials which lasted until February of 1947 after the Chinese government posted notices in Nanking regarding the need for credible witnesses, (Chang 1997:170). Unlike the Nuremburg Trials, however, much of the case against the Japanese fell apart thanks to faulty prosecution and a lack of true concern for justice in the region.
The events which conspired in Nanking during the Japanese occupation broke several established international laws for the protection of civilians, prisoners of war, and unarmed Chinese soldiers. According to the International Military Tribunal of the Far East, three classifications of war criminals were established based on the intent and nature of their crimes. This tribunal followed the model set in Europe by the coinciding tribunal the International Military Tribunal of Nuremburg and followed the same charter with the definition of war crimes as "violations of the laws and customs of war," (Alderman 1945:149). Class a criminals entailed that those in the category had committed crimes against peace, (Alderman 1945:149). These crimes were the bulk of convictions seen in the Nuremburg Trials. Crimes against peace entailed almost exactly what the Japanese Emperor later admitted, participating "in the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging wars of aggression, which were also wars in violence of international treaties, agreements, and assurances," (International Military Tribunal 1945:64). Yet, in Japan, many of those, like the Emperor, who had admitted to doing exactly the definition of Crimes Against Peace, were left not convicted to later hold public office and freely enter into the United States.
Another portion of the original charter shared by the International Tribunal of the Far East with that of the Nuremburg Tribunal was the sections involving crimes against hostages and prisoners of war. According to the Nuremburg Charter, Nazi Germany "in the course of waging aggressive wars, the defendants adopted and put into effect on a wide scale the practice of taking, and of killing, hostages from the civilian population," (International Military Tribunal 1945:65). According to the precedents set by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, civilian hostages and prisoners of war were protected from wrongful death during occupation. However, the actions of the Japanese at Nanking were in direct violation of these conventions. Hundreds of thousands of civilian hostages, refugees, and prisoners of war were murdered; many of which done so through chemical and biological weapon testing. Japan's human guinea pig research projects resulted in the untimely and miserable deaths of hundreds of thousands of Chinese. It was in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles article 171, which outlawed the use of poison gas and other chemical weapons during war, which Nazi Germany was guilty of breaking as well. All of these conventions were initially signed by the Japanese, further proving their knowledge of these international laws which they all but threw out the window during their occupation of China in 1939. Under this charter, the Japanese were also guilty of violating Crimes Against Humanity, which came about directly as a result from the Nuremburg Trials, unlike Crimes Against Peace which had its origins in earlier international conventions. Crimes against Humanity consisted of the "maltreatment or atrocities committed against persons who were unprotected by law because of their nationality," (Moghalu 2008:185). The strongest defense of the Japanese was that they had never ratified the Prisoner of War Convention prior to entering the war, despite promises to allied forces that the nation would protect allied POWs. Yet, this meant nothing towards their dealings with the Chinese. Therefore, the new legal ramifications of the Crimes Against Humanity included the Chinese into these conventions based on the fact that they could not be left out due to nationality. The prosecution presented its case within the context that Japan had ratified the Fourth Hague Convention in 1907, which stipulated the protection of POWs during a time of war. One of the most blatantly criminal offenses committed by the Japanese army during their occupation of Nanking was the sexual slavery which they imposed on the female residents of the region which was also in violation of the above mentioned conventions and treaties signed by the Japanese.
Many critics blame a lack of strong concise prosecution on behalf of the International Military Tribunal of the Far East. American born Joseph B. Keenan was the chief prosecutor in the international tribunal case. Keenan held a third tier position within the Federal government as Director of the Criminal Division in the Justice Department. Despite early efforts, Keenan was later criticized for several questionable approaches to the case. He had failed to initially procure and submit crucial documents into the deadline which would allocate it to be used as evidence in the trial. This lead to crucial and damaging information being unheard during the criminal proceedings of the war crimes trials. This led to a reduction in indictments based on lack of proper protocol.
The prosecution presented a case against top Japanese officers in response directly to the armed forces of the nation committing massacre, rape, looting, and numerous other inhumane acts during the occupation of the region in 1939. These acts were committed against Chinese citizens and fully unarmed Chinese soldiers beginning with the original taking of the city by the Japanese. The prosecution also allocated that Chinese refugees fleeing the war zone area were also attacked and forced to be victimized by the Japanese despite full understanding of International Laws. On top of chasing down fleeing refugees, the Japanese was also allocated to have unlawfully entered the safe zone to kidnap, rape, and murder Chinese natives of Nanking. The prosecution presented these crimes as committed despite heavy protest efforts from the International Committee, further showing the extreme disregard for International Law on the behalf of the invading Japanese empire. Further evidence presented by the prosecution proved that many cabinet leaders both knew about and were responsible for the atrocities as they were happening.
Yet one fundamental flaw in the prosecution's case was the lack of responsibility placed on the Japanese Emperor, Hirohito. The prosecution allowed General McAurthur to dismiss the Emperor from the case to save humiliation and potential consequences for his responsibility in the matter. Yet many critics blame this as one of the prosecutions greatest flaws, (Moghalu 2008:41). Without going to the source of the policies and decisions, the Tokyo Tribunal was only trying petty criminals and Generals who simply followed out orders, rather than pursuing where those orders initially came from. The Emperor himself acknowledged that the war was fought in his name and that he was the sole person who could launch a war at all, (Moghalu 2008:43). Another major concern was the admission of his knowledge of the aggressive occupation of China. Criticism and testimony involving the Emperor was banned within the case of the trial by United States Reconstruction policy within Japan, (Moghalu 2008:44). Yet, General McArthur thought it best to dismiss him from the Tribunal, forever ensuring a wave of criticism within the approach of the prosecution towards bringing real justice to those who deserved it. He justified this approach with propelling the idea that "by saving the Japanese throne McArthur paved a solid path to democracy in Japan," (Moghalu 2008:46). However, many critics assumed that this was a political ploy to ensure later U.S. interests in Japan -- "a ploy which did pay off for the American economy.
The prosecution also centered on more of a lack of involvement in stopping these atrocities, rather than any direct responsibility of those it did try. This sent a message to the international community that the International Military Tribunal of the Far East did not view these Japanese officers to be responsible for such actions, rather simply for a lack of better common sense to place more effort into stopping them. Thus, the international community continued to get a dulled down version of the events with no one truly at fault but the undisciplined soldiers who were directly involved in the everyday actions of the Rape of Nanking. Much unlike the more effective methods of the prosecution during the Nuremburg Trials in Germany, the prosecution in the case of Japan failed to produce sufficient solid evidence of a conspiracy which would later link multiple officials together, as was done with former Nazi players. When Nazi officials were cleared on direct involvement in the everyday happenings of the concentration camps, they failed to elude the charge of conspiracy, (Alderman 1945:124). However, the prosecution did not make such a strong case on conspiracy during the Military Tribunal held in Tokyo. Rather, they stuck with focusing on individual officer's lack of stopping the atrocities of Nanking rather than direct orders or conspiracy to do so. This failed to convict as many war criminals with stronger convictions.
This treatment is not so much different than how the massacre and violations of International Law are being viewed even today.…[continue]
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