Australia’s Post-World War II War Crimes Trials

Between 1945 and 1951, the Australian military conducted 300 trials in eight locations in the Asia-Pacific region – Morotai, Wewak, Labuan, Darwin, Rabaul, Singapore, Hong Kong and Manus Island – pursuant to the War Crimes Act 1945. Until now, despite the significance of these trials and their important precedential value for contemporary war crimes trials, little has been published about them and the voluminous transcripts of the trials have remained largely unread in the National Archives of Australia. This projects provides scholars and the general public with law reports of these trials.

PERSONNEL

  • Professor Tim McCormack, Chief Investigator
  • Dr Steven Bullard, Senior Historian, Military History Section, Australian War Memorial
  • Dr Georgina Fitzpatrick, Research Fellow
  • Dr Narrelle Morris, Research Fellow

FUNDING AND SUPPORT

This research is supported under Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme (project LP0882300, 2010-2012, and LP120100204, 2012-2013), in partnership with Defence Legal and the Australian War Memorial.

MAJOR PUBLICATIONS

The complete publication, comprising the reports of the trials and essays providing the historical context for each of the eight trial locations will be published by Martinus Nijhoff in 2014/2015. A multi-functional search tool will enable researchers to navigate their way through the law reports series. In addition, a single volume containing essays on legal and historical aspects of Australia’s war crimes trials, together with the eight essays on each of the trial locations will be published in 2014; this volume will be available for sale at the Australian War Memorial and will ensure access to the material for a broader readership.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

Helen Durham and Narrelle Morris, ‘Women’s Bodies and International Criminal Law: From Tokyo to Rabaul’ in Yuki Tanaka, Tim McCormack and Gerry J Simpson (eds), Beyond Victor’s Justice? The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Revisited (Martinus Nijhoff, 2011)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘War Crimes Trials, Victor’s Justice and Australian Military Justice in the Aftermath of the Second World War’ in Kevin Heller and Gerry Simpson (eds), The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (Oxford University Press, 2013) 327

Narrelle Morris, ‘Justice for “Asian” Victims: The Australian War Crimes Trials of the Japanese, 1945-51’ in Kevin Heller and Gerry Simpson (eds), The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (Oxford University Press, 2013) 348

Narrelle Morris, ‘Unexpected Defeat: The Unsuccessful War Crimes Prosecution of Lt Gen Yamawaki Masataka and Others at Manus Island 1950’ (2013) 23 Journal of International Criminal Justice 1

PRESENTATIONS

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘“Darwin Court Will Not Be Stampeded”: War Crimes Trials at Darwin, 1946’, Darwin’s 1946 War Crimes Trials Examined, Australian Red Cross Centenary Event (Darwin, 19 February 2014)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘“Pushing Baby Out”: War Crimes Trials and an Episode in Anglo-Australian Relations, 1947-8’, People, Power and Place, Conference of the Australia New Zealand Law and History Society (University of Otago, 25–27 November 2013)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘Mobilising Soldiers for War: Recruiting Personnel for Australia’s War Crimes Trials, 1945–51’, Mobilities and Mobilisations in History, Conference of the Australian Historical Association (University of Woollongong, 8–12 July 2013)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘“Cutting the Apron Strings”: Australian and British War Crimes Trials at Singapore, 1946–48’, Legal Histories of the British Empire Conference (National University of Singapore, 5–7 July 2012)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘Unfinished Business: Australia’s War Crimes Trials at Manus Island’, The Pacific War, 1941–5: Heritage, Legacies, Culture Conference (Monash University, Caulfield, 5–7 December 2011)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘War Crimes Trials: “Victor’s Justice’ and Australian Military Justice in the Aftermath of the Second World War’, Owning the Past: Whose Past? Whose Present? Australia and New Zealand Law History Society Conference (Melbourne, 13–15 December 2010)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘“As a Drop of Dew Vanishes on the Execution Place”: Death Sentences, Japanese War Criminals and the Australian Military in the Aftermath of the Second World War’, Staff Seminar (Australian War Memorial, 30 November 2010)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘War Crimes Trials and Australian Military Justice in the Aftermath of the Second World War’, Untold Stories: Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials Symposium (Melbourne Law School, 14–16 October 2010)

Georgina Fitzpatrick, ‘“As a Drop of Dew Vanishes on the Execution Place”: Death Sentences, Japanese War Criminals and the Australian Military in the Aftermath of the Second World War’, (Re)Viewing History: The Australian Historical Association Biennial Conference (University of Western Australia, Perth, 5–9 July 2010)

Narrelle Morris, ‘Unexpected Defeat: The Unsuccessful War Crimes Prosecutions of Lt Gen Yamawaki Masataka and others at Manus Island, 1950’, The 4th Japanese History Workshop (Murdoch University, 30 November–2 December 2011)

Narrelle Morris, ‘Justice for Asian Victims: The Australian War Crimes Trials of the Japanese, 1945-51’, Owning the Past: Whose Past? Whose Present? Australia and New Zealand Law History Society Conference (Melbourne, 13–15 December 2010)

Narrelle Morris, ‘Justice for Asian Victims: The Australian War Crimes Trials of the Japanese, 1945-51’, Untold Stories: Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials Symposium, (Melbourne Law School, 14–16 October 2010)

Narrelle Morris, ‘Unexpected Compassion: The Sandakan “Death March” Survivors who Supported a Guard’, (Re)Viewing History: The Australian Historical Association Biennial Conference (University of Western Australia, Perth, 5–9 July 2010)