Part or chapter of a book
War Crimes Trials in China after the Second World War: Justice and Politics
Historical War Crimes Trials in Asia
Bruxelles : Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher
231 - 249 p.
historical trials, war crimes , China, Second World War
When examining the war crimes trials after the Second World War, many have criticised the involvement of political elements in these trials. Asia, in particular, seems to suffer most from the “illness” or “abnormality” of political involvement in the judicial process, from Tokyo to today’s international criminal justice endeavours, such as in Cambodia, East Timor and so forth. The Chinese trials of Japanese war criminals after the war have not received much attention because of the lack of first-hand records and many other reasons. But the political considerations in these trials are also obvious and have often been criticised by commentators. By contrast, others defend these trials by emphasising their adherence to judicial guarantees despite the political dimensions. Both attitudes are based on the same presumption, that is, politics is an “evil” that should be separated from judicial processes. The latter should be “pure” and “just”, and that means staying away from “dirty” politics. This chapter considers it over-simplistic to make such a clear-cut separation between justice and politics, and to render it as a black-andwhite dichotomy. By examining the trials of Japanese war criminals by both the Nationalist government in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and by the People’s Republic of China (‘PRC’) in the 1950s, the chapter seeks to demonstrate how politics plays out in the design and operation of judicial mechanisms. It argues that in a complex social background as existed at the end of a war, judicial proceedings are only one of the means available to meet the various needs of society. Justice might not be the sole, or the most important, goal of the judicial process, which might be designed and used by the decision makers to facilitate other priorities, such as the very existence of the nation or regime, or the maintenance of order and stability...