Tokyo War Crimes Trial


Joseph Berry Keenan – lawyer in Tokyo

USA, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, USSR, India and the United Kingdom all took part.

72 prosecution lawyers

79 Japanese lawyers

class A – initiated crimes

class B – ordered them or allowed them


wars of aggression

violation of international treaties

crimes of murder and conspiracy thereto

crimes against humanity

actions since were considered 1928

violation of law regarding observance of conventions about POWs and civilian prisoners

Manchurian incident was considered


political murders in Japan of dissidents

forced prostitution, rape, maiming, torture, starvation

MacArthur was vengeful against those who had humiliated him

he appointed a military tribunal in the Philippines. He wanted a fast trial. A race to execution. No obstacles allowed.  Yamashita was behind the death march and murders in Manila. No legal niceties impeded the judicially illiterate trial. No good jurists were involved.

Japanese destroyed democracy in their own land

The trial did not start with a grand and sweeping opening. There was a hollow ring to the start. No compelling evidence at the start.

trial plunged into murky Japanese politics. Carloads of motions and briefs. Defence hoped for a communist takeover in China to tip the scales towards them

conspiracy charges were dropped as vague and unwieldy. speeded things up.

the defendants came up with statements that were so self incriminating that the British had to verify that they were not being questioned under torture. They positively boasted of their misdeeds. They bragged about their major role in national affairs

diaries of Marquess Kido became bible of the prosecution of names, dates and places


was the emperor blameless? Then they acted against his wishes? He was out of bounds. This infuriated the defence attornies. Tedious but relentless.

inhumanity. war of annihilation. defence was arrogant and shameless

they asked that Gandhi and the Pope and H G Wells be executed

each  lawyer wanted the other clients to be hanged – to save Field Marshall Hata

they treat war as abstract and legitimate

3 and a half year trial

class A prisoners . 7 sentences of death. 16 life in prison. others got lesser times. 2 died during trial. one declared insane but recovered

former POWs volunteered as hangmen

US Supreme court said it could not hear the case

1948 december  – Sugami prison Hideki Tojo was hanged

some people who had been on trial did well. Two doctors became millionaires

untried class A prisoner became Prime Minister





About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

2 responses »

  1. Joseph Berry Keenan was doing his duty as an American as Chief Prosecutor in Tokyo. But he did not want the death penalty to be laid down on any defendants. However, that was not his decision.

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