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

‘Australia’s War Crimes Trials 1945-51’

By Dr Georgina Fitzpatrick, Prof. Tim McCormack (Melbourne Law School/University of Tasmania Law School) and Dr Narrelle Morris (Curtin Law School/Melbourne Law School).

This unique volume provides a detailed analysis of Australia’s 300 war crimes trials of principally Japanese accused conducted in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Part I contains contextual essays explaining why Australia established military courts to conduct these trials and thematic essays considering various legal issues in, and historical perspectives on, the trials. Part II offers a comprehensive collection of eight location essays, one each for the physical locations where the trials were held. In Part III post-trial issues are reviewed, such as the operation of compounds for war criminals; the repatriation of convicted Japanese war criminals to serve the remainder of their sentences; and reflections of some of those convicted on their experience of the trials. In the final essay, a contemporary reflection on the fairness of the trials is provided, not on the basis of a twenty-first century critique of contemporary minimum standards of fair trial expected in the prosecution of war crimes, but by reviewing approaches taken in the trials themselves as well as from reactions to the trials by those associated with them. The essays are supported by a large collection of unique historical photographs, maps and statistical materials. There has been no systematic and comprehensive analysis of these trials so far, which has meant that they are virtually precluded from consideration as judicial precedent. This volume fills that gap, and offers scholars and practitioners an important and groundbreaking resource.

 

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

James Boyd and Narrelle Morris, ‘“High standard of efficiency and steadiness”: Papua New Guinea native police guards and Japanese War Criminals, 1945-53’, Journal of Pacific History, vol. 50, no. 1, March 2015, pp. 20-37.

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, ‘Obscuring the Historical Origins of International Criminal Law in Australia: The Australian War Crimes Investigations and Prosecutions of Japanese, 1942-1951’, in Morten Bergsmo, Cheah Wui Ling and Yi Ping, (eds), Historical Origins of International Criminal Law: Volume 2, (Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher, 2014) pp. 355-94.

Narrelle Morris, ‘“Gross inefficiency and criminal negligence”: The Services Reconnaissance Department in Timor 1943-45 and the Darwin War Crimes Trials in 1946’, Intelligence and National Security, vol. 31, no. 2, February 2017, pp. 179-194

Narrelle Morris, ‘Unexpected Defeat: The Unsuccessful War Crimes Prosecution of Lt Gen Yamawaki Masataka and others at Manus Island, 1950’, Journal of International Criminal Justice, vol. 11, no. 3 July 2013, pp. 591-613.

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

PRESENTATION

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, ‘Australia’s War Crimes Trials of the Japanese, 1945-51, and “Fair” Trials’, International Law Club Seminar Series, University of Western Australia, 5 September 2016.

Narrelle Morris, ‘Australia’s War Crimes Trials of the Japanese, 1945-51, and “Fair” Trials’, Australia Red Cross: Issues in International Humanitarian Law course, College of Law WA, Perth, 9 August 2016.

Narrelle Morris, ‘Australian Experiences of Collaboration at the United Nations War Crimes Commission, 1943-48’, Australia and New Zealand Law and History Society Conference, University of Adelaide, 10-12 December 2015.

Narrelle Morris, ‘Australian Experiences of Collaboration at the United Nations War Crimes Commission, 1943-48’, ‘Contested Visions of Justice: Allied War Crimes Trials in a Global Context, 1943-1958’ conference, Boston College, Dublin, Ireland, 25-27 September 2015

Narrelle Morris, ‘The public must not be alarmed or incited’: The Censorship of Atrocity Stories in Australia during World War II’, The 5th Japanese History Workshop, Monash University, 26-28 November 2014.

Narrelle Morris, ‘Obscuring the Historical Origins of International Criminal Law in Australia: The Australian War Crimes Investigations and Prosecutions of Japanese, 1942–51’, The Historical Origins of International Criminal Law, Seminar 1, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1-2 March 2014.

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)