British War Crimes Trials of Japanese

 Nature-People-Society: Science and the Humanities, No.31, July 2001
(Kanto Gakuin University) 
 

Hayashi Hirofumi


                                 uploaded on 29 January, 2002@


@Introduction
@T@
Outline of British war crimes trials of Japanese
 
@U@
Characteristics of Japanese war crimes tried by British
@V@
British post-war policy in Asia and war crimes trials
@
Conclusion


Introduction

 

As is well known, the United Nations set up two international military tribunals after World War II—in Nuremberg and Tokyo—to try the major war criminals. They were class gAh war criminals. On the other hand, each member of the United Nations had the right to set up its own trials to bring minor war criminals to justice, these being class gBh and gCh war criminals who were accused of conventional war crimes and crimes against humanity. A total of seven nations, including the UK, carried out minor war crimes trials of Japanese nationals suspected of being war criminals.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the minor war crimes trials of Japanese nationals carried out by Britain in Southeast Asia. Thus we are not concerned here with either the major war criminals or the Tokyo tribunal, but only with the trials relating to minor war crimes. This paper will consider how and why the UK decided to conduct its own war crimes trials in the context of international politics, and especially will analyse the link between these trials and British policy regarding the rebuilding of her empire in Southeast and East Asia.

War crimes trials have over the years provoked a great deal of controversy in Japan, though few academic studies have so far looked into the issues involved. Generally, the studies that have been published have claimed that the trials were unfair, one-sided, and simply reflected the judgment of the conquerors[i]. Certainly, it has to be admitted that some of the accused were innocent, yet were found guilty, while others were not afforded adequate opportunity to defend themselves. In addition, the ill-treatment of Japanese suspects by the United Nations, which has been dealt with by numerous books in Japan, has amplified Japanese antipathy toward the war crimes trials in general.

However, with the exception of some points, it has to be said these studies are flawed because they are based only on documents relating to the Japanese involved and, what is more, often aim to justify Japanese conduct and deny that war crimes were actually perpetrated. British documents concerning the war crimes trials, which are preserved in the Public Record Office, have not been utilised for research in Japan. Needless to say, it is important to consider these war crimes trials in the light of both Japanese and British documents on the subject[ii].

In the UK, John Pritchard has conducted research on this issue[iii]. He claims that ethe British Military Courts in the Far East generally were conducted with wonderful fairness, and that justice was achieved to the fullest extent humanly possible in the vast majority of casesf[iv]. For example, he states that ejudging from the transcripts, which were kept only in English, the quality of translation between Japanese and English appears to have been rough but adequatef[v]. However, it is the authorfs opinion that this analysis is based on his reading of English documents alone. It is well known in Japan that one of the more serious complaints made by Japanese accused was that interpretation was poor. Not a few of the accused failed to understand what was going on in the courts. Needless to say, without examining both English and Japanese documents relating to the trials, the claim above cannot be substantiated. Furthermore, Pritchardfs studies only consider the issue from the viewpoint of British justice alone.

In this paper, I intend to examine the British minor war crimes trials in the context of the international politics of the day. At the end of World War II, one of the most important problems faced by the UK was how to rebuild the British Empire, and the war crimes trials of Japanese nationals were conducted against the background of Britainfs policy in Southeast and East Asia. At the same time, the peoples of Southeast Asia were on the path to their own independence. We have to examine the British war crimes trials in the light of these circumstances[vi].

 

T@Outline of British war crimes trials of Japanese

 

The United Nations declared early in World War II that one of the principal war aims was to punish those guilty of war crimes. The United Nations War Crimes Commission was set up in October 1943 in order to pave the way for war crimes trials.

In the UK the Lord Chancellor, Viscount Simon, was the first to consider British policy on this issue. He proposed to the War Cabinet that he be placed in charge of war crimes trials, but this proposal was rejected on 14 October 1944[vii]. The following month, the War Cabinet decided that ewar crimes committed against British subjects or in British territory should be dealt with by military courts set up to try them in Germany (or wherever else was appropriate)f. The Secretary of State for War was entrusted with carrying out minor war crimes trials[viii]. This was the policy applied to the Japanese.

In June 1945 gRegulations for the trial of war criminalsh were introduced by special army order, and British minor war crimes trials were carried out in accordance with these regulations. However, Britain was not yet in a position to begin Japanese war crimes trials at the end of the pacific war because Japan surrendered earlier than expected.

The South East Asia Command (SEAC; Supreme Allied Commander Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten) and Allied Land Forces, South East Asia (ALFSEA) were placed in charge of the minor war crimes trials of Japanese nationals. The Commander-in-Chief ALFSEA, who was under the command of SEAC, was authorized to convene military courts and to confirm the findings. SEAC and each unit under its command began investigating war crimes and arresting suspects as soon as they returned to Southeast Asia.

Until the end of 1945, the main investigation organisation was the E Group of Force 136, a part of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). In Singapore, while Chinese officers of Force 136 were placed in charge of investigating war crimes against local people, other officers collected information from ex-POWs[ix]. I shall later on discuss the importance of the role of Force 136.

SEAC went about collecting statements from former POWs, most of which related to war crimes against the POWs themselves. A total of 35,963 such statements were taken on the so-called eQ Formf (WO311/59). At the same time, the British were making efforts to collect information from local people who were victims of Japanese crimes and who could act as witnesses. The British authorities often made use of newspapers to appeal for information from the public[x]. In Parliament on 19 December 1945, Frederick John Bellenger, the Financial Secretary to the War Office, stated that ealthough the military administration is anxious to bring to justice the perpetrators of such crimes [atrocities committed against the Asian civilian population of Malaya], their success in doing so is largely dependent upon the willingness of the local population to come forward with reportsf (WO203/4927A). Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that assistance from local people was of crucial importance to the British war crimes trials.

Mountbatten was anxious to begin war crimes trials as soon as possible, but he had to wait for orders to proceed as the British government did not decide on the procedure for trials of Japanese until 12 October 1945[xi]. On that day, Attorney-General Hartley Shawcross presided over a meeting in London at which ethe policy and procedure for bringing Japanese war criminals to trialf was discussed (WO203/5594). It was agreed that ea self-contained JAG [Judge Advocate General] organisation in the Far East was desirablef in order to eavoid unnecessary delayf. In other words, while the British government in London would generally supervise, SEAC and ALFSEA were to be entrusted with actual procedures and execution, including decisions about who should be prosecuted, whose crimes would warrant the death sentence, and so on.

During the meeting, the Attorney-General stated that ethe cabinet regarded the bringing of Japanese war criminals to early trial as a matter of the first priorityf and proposed a target date of 31 July 1946 by which time a minimum of 500 cases should have been tried. One Brigadier Davis, the Deputy Judge Advocate General (DJAG), ALFSEA and the man who would take virtually complete control of war crimes trials of Japanese nationals, was at the meeting. He then returned to SEAC and on his arrival in place, a meeting was held on 3 November in Kandy, Ceylon to discuss the trials (WO203/4926, RG153/Box229). This meeting reviewed the system to be used by SEAC and ALFSEA to implement the trials, after which SEAC was then ready to begin convening trials[xii]. Thereafter, in December, seventeen war crimes investigation teams were organised which included many officers from Force 136.

The first trial was convened in Singapore on 21 January 1946. Further trials followed in quick succession, but still the rate at which trials proceeded was slower than the British had expected. In May 1946, there were 8,900 suspects under arrest, but only 175 accused had been prosecuted (WO203/4927A). ALFSEA estimated that up to 3,200 could be brought to trial in the end, but ultimately less than 1,000 were tried.

The most serious bottleneck was the lack of staff, especially legal staff. The serious shortage of defending counsels and interpreters saw some improvement by October 1946 because a number of staff were dispatched from Japan. However, this lack of legal personnel dogged the trials to the end. In this period after the warfs end, Britain was in a hurry to repatriate her officers and soldiers, and as a result very few staff could be provided to SEAC. This was also the case with the British Army of the Rhine in charge of war crimes trials in Germany.

Ernest Bevin, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, stated in a letter to Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister, on 5 February 1946 that eregarding the Far East, I agree that high priority should be given to trials of minor war criminals in the same way as we hope will be done in Europef (WO32/12197), but the War Office was not able to do anything to ameliorate the situation. As a result, the target date was revised several times.

By the end of 1946, ALFSEA had almost finished its investigations of war crimes against POWs, except for cases in Burma and those that took place on the high seas. Most of the outstanding cases were those relating to local people. On 3 December 1946, ALFSEA decided to propose to the War Office that investigations should continue until 31 March 1947 (and in the case of Burma until 30 April) and that all cases should have been disposed of by 30 June 1947 (WO311/540). DJAG Davis stated in his letter to the War Office on 5 December 1946 that eundoubtedly a vast number of war crimes, of varying degrees of gravity, were committed by the Japanese against the local civil population in Malaya, Singapore, and Burma and, provided witnesses are willing to come forward and the accused can be identified, fresh cases will continue to come to light for an indefinite periodf (WO311/540).

In 1947 the organisation implementing the trials was reorganised, but the number of staff rapidly decreased. In Burma, trials were ended in November 1947 when the country gained independence, and most other trials had been concluded by March 1948. Two cases in which three Kempei(members of the Military Police) were prosecuted on the charge of crimes against civilians in Shanghai were brought to trial in October and December in Hong Kong. The last trial finished on 20 December 1948.

However, investigations continued. One of the important cases still being pursued was that relating to Colonel Tsuji Masanobu. Tsuji was essentially in charge of virtually all massacres of Chinese in Singapore and Malaya, but had escaped. The Far Eastern Land Forces(FARELF), which was set up after ALFSEA was disbanded, proposed to JAG in London that Tsujifs case be reopened because of estrong local interestf. JAG approved the proposal in July 1948, but noted that it would be eunable to reinforce your stafff (WO325/5). Despite these additional efforts, however, Tsuji managed to escape because of assistance from the Chinese Nationalists and G2 of GHQ who made use of Tsuji in an anticommunist campaign.

In April 1949, the Far Eastern Commission recommended to all member governments that the investigation of minor war crimes should be completed by the end of the next month, and that the minor war crimes trials themselves should be completed, if possible, by 30 September. The UK also agreed to this recommendation.

At the end of September, however, the Suezu Maru case was still under investigation. The FARELF proposed to the War Office that a trial be convened in Tokyo, but the War Office rejected the idea on 19 October (LCO2/3002). On that same day, the final US trial was completed in Yokohama. This brought to conclusion all British activity related to war crimes trials, but needless to say, a great number of war crimes remained untried.

 

U@The Characteristics of Japanese war crimes tried by the British

 

The British carried out war crimes trials of Japanese nationals in a total of twenty cities in five regions, namely Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo, Burma, and Hong Kong (Table 1). In Malaya, North Borneo, and Burma, the trials dealt with those accused of war crimes that were committed in the same area. Since cases related to POWs were tried in Singapore and Hong Kong, these trials dealt with crimes in various areas including Japan, mainland China, Taiwan, and on the high seas (Table 2).

 Table 1@ Summary of British war crimes trials of Japanese nationals

Location of Trial

Cases

Accused

Death sentence

Death sentences confirmed

Life imprisonment

Imprisonment

Not guilty

Others

First day of trials

Last day of trials

Singapore

131

465

141

112

43

226

54

1

21 Jan.1946

12 Mar.1948

Malaya

68

169

62

57

5

80

20

2

30 Jan.1946

28 Jan.1948

North Borneo

19

29

13

10

1

12

3

 

8 Apr.1946

8 Oct.1947

Burma

40

132

39

23

3

75

14

1

22 Mar.1946

21 Nov.1947

Hong Kong

46

124

25

20

1

84

14

 

28 Mar.1946

20 Dec.1948

Total

304

919

280

222

53

477

105

4

21 Jan.1946

20 Dec.1948

Source:  WO235/813-1117
Note:  Of the 4 cases in "Others", 3 were withdrawn & 1 was finding unknown.
@
        Among the 919 accused, one case file of an accused is missing.

 Table 2  Location of crimes and trials 

 

               Location    of    Trial

 

Location of Crimes

Singapore

Malaya

North Borneo

Burma

Hong Kong

     Total

Singapore

123

 

 

 

 

123

Malaya

3

165

 

 

 

168

North Borneo

35

 

29

 

 

64

Burma

 

 

 

132

 

132

Hong Kong

 

 

 

 

72

72

Thailand (including Burma-Siam railway)

100

4

 

 

 

104

Andaman & Nicobar

100

 

 

 

 

100

Indonesia

53

 

 

 

 

53

Indochina

14

 

 

 

 

14

New Britain

13

 

 

 

 

13

Palau

11

 

 

 

 

11

High seas

10

 

 

 

3

13

Taiwan

 

 

 

 

42

42

China

 

 

 

 

4

4

Japan

 

 

 

 

3

3

Others

2

 

 

 

 

2

Total

464

169

29

132

124

918

Source:  WO235/813-1117
Note:   Figures indicate the number of accused.

I would like to focus attention on the victims of the crimes. My first question is what kinds of war crimes the British brought to trial. To take a first example, let us consider the first trial carried out in each place.

In the first trial in Singapore, which began to be heard on 21 January 1946, ten accused were prosecuted on the charge of causing the death of many Indian POWs. After an eleven-day trial, eight were found guilty and one was sentenced to death. On 5 February, two trials began simultaneously. The charge in one trial was war crimes against the local Chinese population, while the other related to crimes against POWs on the Burma-Siam railway.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaya, the first two trials began on 30 January. The accused in both cases were charged with war crimes against local civilians. After guilty verdicts, both accused were sentenced to death; the findings and sentences were confirmed.

In Burma, the first case that came to trial was the massacre at Karagon village, where over six hundred inhabitants were massacred by a Japanese battalion. It is important to note here that the Karagon villagers had been collaborating with the agents of Force 136, and this is what gave rise to the Japanese atrocities. Of the fourteen accused, four officers, including a battalion commander, were sentenced to death.

The first trial in Hong Kong was held on 28 March. Fifteen defendants were charged with killing nine villagers and torturing many more in reprisal for guerrilla attacks on Japanese forces. Twelve were found guilty; and three of those were sentenced to death.

Finally, the initial trial in North Borneo began on 8 April. Three Kempei were found guilty on the charge of killing three local Chinese and an Indian. The sentences were death, life in prison, and five years imprisonment, respectively. Thus, in six of the eight trials mentioned here, the war crimes in question were against local people.

 Next, let us attempt to extend this observation to British war crimes trials as a whole. Of the 918 accused by the British and brought to trial, those prosecuted on charges of crimes against local civilians amounted to 550, or 60 per cent of the total (Table 3). In these gcivilianh cases, though some concerned victims who were a mix of Asian and Eurasian or Western civilians, most dealt with crimes against Asians only. On the other hand, those accused of war crimes against POWs amounted to 227, or 25 per cent. Even if the cases relating to Indian POWs and mixed POWs and civilians are added, the total is still only 336, much smaller than the figure for gciviliansh. In Malaya, in particular, the vast majority of cases were concerned with crimes against civilians.

Of the 281 found guilty and sentenced to death, 188 — or fully 67 per cent — were charged with crimes against gciviliansh, while just 66 (23 per cent) had been found guilty of crimes against POWs (Table4). Accordingly, it can be concluded that the majority of Japanese war criminals brought before British courts faced charges of crimes against Asian civilians, and these accused were more likely to be sentenced to death than those accused of crimes against POWs.

Table 3  Types of victim 

 

Total of  Accused

            Type  of  Victim

Location of Trial

 

Civilian

Western civilian

POW

Indian POW

POW & Civilian

Singapore

464

182

26

160

33

63

Malaya

169

169

 

 

 

 

North Borneo

29

25

 

 

4

 

Burma

132

113

1

17

1

 

Hong Kong

124

61

5

50

 

8

Total

918

550

32

227

38

71

Proportion

100%

60%

3%

25%

4%

8%

Source:  Judging from charge sheets in WO235/813-1117
Note:    Figures indicate the number of accused.

Table 4  Sentences and victims

Type of victim

Accused

Guilty

Death sentence

Life imprisonment

Not guilty or withdrawal of charge

Death sentence confirmed

Civilian

550

486

188

31

64

160

Western civilian

32

25

11

4

7

7

POW

227

201

66

11

26

44

Indian POW

38

32

7

1

6

3

Civilian POW

71

66

9

6

5

9

Total

918

810

281

53

108

223

Source:  WO235/813-1117

The war crimes against local people generally involved ill-treatment, ill-treatment resulting in death, unlawful killing, and similar charges. Many were cases against the Kempei, who were responsible for maintaining the rule of law and arresting anti-Japanese suspects. Most members of the Kempei were well known to local people, since they were often stationed for long periods in one location as compared with other military personnel. Their ill-treatment and torture of local residents took place on an intimate basis. Of the 918 accused, 355 (39 per cent) were Kempei and of the 281 death sentences carried out, 112 (40 per cent) were Kempei. The charges brought against Kempei were obviously based on allegations by victims or local witnesses.

Most studies in Japan have erroneously concluded that the minor war crimes trials carried out by United Nations members including the UK mainly dealt with cases against POWs. One leading Japanese scholar on the war crimes trials claims that ethe main charges related to killing and violence against soldiers or civilians of the Allies, while crimes against local people, which must have been much more numerous than crimes against members of the Allies, were hardly dealt withf by minor war crimes trials, except in the Philippines and China[xiii]. Furthermore, a recent study claimed that eit seems to [the author] that the British handed down extremely severe sentences against those found guilty of war crimes against her citizens, while they were lenient toward war crimes against Indians and Chinesef[xiv].

The reason for these arguments may be that imperialist countries are assumed not to have taken a serious interest in the suffering of local people in their colonies. In any event, most studies published so far have made claims without foundation and, therefore, should be revised.

 

V@British post-war policy in Asia and war crimes trials

 

Given that the main victims of Japanese aggression during World War II were Asian peoples, one may conclude that it is wholly understandable that British war crimes trials dealt with cases in which local people were victimized. However, we really have to ask why the British decided to bring these particular cases to trial. In answering this question, we shall discuss it in the context of British policy toward re-building her empire in Southeast and East Asia.

Britain had been expelled in humiliation by the Japanese and thus exposed as a feeble power in front of the local people of Asia. As the war ended, the question of how to recover her empire was a matter of no small concern. Just before the end of the war, M. E. Dening, the Chief Political Adviser to Mountbatten, stated in a letter to the Foreign Office that:

 eIf circumstances should arise wherein we recover Malaya and in particular Singapore, not by force of arms but by act of surrender, then we should to my mind, carry out our reoccupation with the maximum degree of efficiency and the maximum display of force. This is necessary not because the stigma which attaches to our loss of these territories is by no means forgotten, but because we must impress upon local inhabitants that we are now possessed of force and organisation which were so conspicuously lacking at the time of our defeatc Politically it is vitally important that our return to territories occupied for so long by the Japanese should take place in a manner most calculated to impress the inhabitants with the security we are capable of providingf[xv].

One of the methods Britain used to implement this policy was to hold ceremonies on a huge scale when returning to Singapore.

Similarly, in connection with Britainfs minor war crimes trials, Foreign Secretary Bevin encouraged the Secretary of State for War to take effective action in a letter dated 29 September 1945 by stating that eour reputation in Germany and the Far East is certainly dependent to a great extent upon the expedition and efficiency with which these trials are carried throughf (WO32/12640). The Treasury Solicitor, who acted as legal adviser to the War Office, insisted at a meeting on 16 October 1945 that ethe criminals should be brought back to Malaya on account of the important effect on prestigef (WO203/5593). In addition, in reference to cases of atrocities in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, the Colonial Office was every anxious to see responsible Japanese brought to trial and considered it an opportunity to sustain Empire Prestigef[xvi].

Thus the war crimes trials were thought to present a good opportunity to impress upon the local population that Britain had enough power to protect and govern her empire. It is clear that the British authorities saw the war crimes trials from the viewpoint of recovering British prestige in Southeast and East Asia in order to re-build her empire. 

For the moment, we shall concentrate on Malaya, since this was Britainfs most important colony in Southeast Asia. Before the war, British Malaya was divided into the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States, and the Unfederated Malay States. British rule was based on the collaboration of the Malays. However, after its defeat in Malaya, Britain began to reconsider the implementation of direct colonial rule over the whole of Malaya. The Malayan Planning Unit, set up in July 1943, developed the Malaya Union policy that was authorized by the War Cabinet in May 1944[xvii].

The main aim of the Malaya Union policy was to form a centralised Union of Malaya, excluding Singapore, and to create a common form of citizenship for the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians, and all others who regarded Malaya as their home. That is to say, it was the intent of the Malaya Union policy to build an efficient and centralized colonial system, which would incorporate local Chinese, as the basis of British rule. In developing this plan, it was taken into consideration that the main anti-Japanese resistance activities were at the time being carried out by the Chinese[xviii]. On the other hand, the Malays were suspected of collaborating with the Japanese[xix].

In this regard it is important to look at the role of Force 136, SOE which was operating as the key liaison between the British and the local Chinese[xx]. It should be noted that it was the Oriental Mission, SOE, that had provided military training to young Chinese communists and had helped them infiltrate the Malay Peninsula during the Malaya Campaign (HS1/207,226). The 165 young communists involved later became the core of the Malayan Peoplefs Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), which became the most powerful guerrilla force operating in Malaya[xxi]. However, SOE lost contact with these Chinese guerrillas because of the Japanese occupation of Malaya. In any event, it is clear that SOE and the Chinese guerrillas operating in Malaya had close connections from the beginning of the war.

The origin of Force 136 can be found in the Indian Mission, which was sent to India before the war broke out. With the founding of SEAC, the mission was brought under its command and renamed Force 136. In May 1943, Force 136 agent Colonel Davis was secretly landed in Malaya by submarine, but was unable to make contact with any anti-Japanese organisations; as a result he returned to India. On his next attempt, however, he was able to set up a meeting with the leaders of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) in December 1943. Both sides promised to cooperate with each other (HS1/107).

Owing to the loss of a wireless installation, however, Davis was prevented from communicating with his Force 136 HQ in Ceylon until February 1945. Once communications resumed, a second meeting took place between Davis, now acting as a representative of SEAC, and the leaders of the MCP and the MPAJA in April 1945. It was agreed that the MPAJA would take British liaison officers with them on all their operations and patrols (HS1/107). Accordingly, British liaison officers and a range of supplies, including arms, ammunition, and medical supplies, were dropped to each MPAJA group by parachute. By the end of June 1945, these shipments of supplies to the MPAJA totaled, among others, 1,904 small arms (rifles, Sten guns, etc.), 4,608 grenades, and 0.85 short tons of explosives. In mid-July 1945, 187 British staff and 32 wireless stations were operating in Malaya (HS1/205).

Although the cooperation between Force 136 and the MPAJA was, under orders from London, limited to purely military operations, there were inevitably political implications. As the MCP had been made illegal before the war, this policy of cooperation gave rise to the question of whether the MCP should be given legal status after the war, and further whether the Chinese should be treated as equal to the Malays[xxii]. The Malaya Union policy and directives concerned can be seen in part as a response to these questions.

Force 136 repeatedly asked SEAC and London to authorize it to make a statement about future British policy in Malaya to the MCP and MPAJA in order to secure their cooperation. Mountbatten was agreeable to this, he econfidently believed that coordinated action by the AJUF[Anti-Japanese Union and Forces], some 10,000 strong, and British officers in communication with the Allied Command would be instrumental in saving the lives of many of our own troops and of hastening the eviction of the Japanese from Malayaf[xxiii]. The Anti-Japanese Union was a political organisation to support the MCP and the Anti-Japanese Forces indicated the MPAJA.

As a result, Mountbatten signaled to the Chiefs of Staff on 11 May 1945 as follows.

eOn operational grounds I am in favour of using these movements to the greatest possible extent, to facilitate and accelerate the advance of my forces in MALAYA. The best chance of military action against the Japanese lies in my supporting the largely Chinese movement known as the Anti-Japanese Union and Forces. The political implications of this are governed by the fact that the Chinese in the greater part of MALAYA did not in the past enjoy equality status[sic]. Consequently support of this movement might invite pressure to secure these privileges once hostilities are over. This potential danger will be minimised if H.M.Gfs policy for the future of MALAYA is disclosed now f(WO203/4403).

The reply given by the Chiefs of Staff on 7 June was that eour relations with the resistance movements must be on a purely military basis and that no reference was to be made to post-war constitutional policyf (WO203/4403). It was not until October 1945 that the Malaya Union plan was made public.

Although there is room for argument about whether Mountbattenfs understanding of the MPAJA, and indeed that of Force 136, was valid, this is not the point under discussion. The essential point is that SEAC and Force 136 had close contact with the Chinese Communists in Malaya and thought it essential to cooperate with them.

As other studies have made clear[xxiv], Mountbatten had a fairly liberal attitude toward nationalist movements and thought Britain should come to terms with them rather than suppress them. In any event, it is worth noting that SEAC, including Mountbatten and Force 136, was also in charge of war crimes trials of Japanese nationals, and carried them out quite autonomously.

As mentioned above, the main organisation in charge of investigation of war crimes was the E Group of Force 136. This particular group had close contact not only with the MPAJA but also with other anti-Japanese groups. Mountbatten admitted that the MPAJA was ethe source of the major part of the intelligence available to me from MALAYAf[xxv]. One can safely say that this intelligence included information on war crimes. For example, Spencer Chapman, who operated with the MPAJA as a member of the Oriental Mission, was informed of the Jelundong massacre by a MPAJA leader. About a thousand Jelundong villagers were killed by the Japanese[xxvi], and when the case later came to trial a Japanese company commander was found guilty.

At the end of the war, Force 136 was assigned duties that included investigating war crimes as well as the rescue of POWs and internees. This was because many of its staff were already in Malaya and were in a position to gain access to war crimes information collected by British liaison officers attached to each MPAJA group.

The liaison officers reported to Force 136 HQ at the end of each operation. Every report included descriptions of eatrocities and war crimesf. They collected statements from local people, interrogated suspects, and even arrested them[xxvii].

To take one example, a Kempei sergeant in Ipoh in north Malaya was prosecuted for the ill-treatment of a Eurasian woman and her seven-year-old daughter as well as many nearby inhabitants. The woman, who ran a clinic with her husband, secretly treated wounded or sick guerrillas while also giving various types of assistance to the MPAJA stationed in the nearby jungle. As a result of her activities, she was arrested and severely tortured. Moreover, the daughterfs hands were tied behind her back and she was hauled some ten feet up into a tree. Glowing coals were then spread on the ground below her feet in order to force her mother to give information about the guerillas. The Kempei sergeant carried out the torture.

The woman was imprisoned until the end of the war. When she was released with her husband, a representative of the MPAJA and an officer of Force 136 visited her and promised to do their best to prosecute the case. In addition, a British officer took down her testimony about the Kempeifs brutalities. Later, many veterans of the MPAJA and officers of Force 136 attended the trial to hear the case in progress[xxviii]. The accused was sentenced to death.

The trial began in February 1946, quite early in the process, and demonstrates that the relationship between Force 136 and the MPAJA had an effect on British war crimes trials.

 

Conclusion

 

There are a variety of reasons why Britain put an end to the war crimes trials of Japanese. First, the British authorities paid attention to keeping in pace with other Allied Nations as mentioned above. Britain would not continue war crimes trials in conformity to the recommendation of the Far Eastern Commission, while Australia in contrast finally completed her trials in April 1951.

Secondly, the lack of staff available had been a bottleneck from beginning to end. Although the British authorities in the Far East tried to continue the trials, it was extremely difficult to do so because of the reduction of the staff. The British government had no intention to increase of its staff. It seems reasonable to suppose that this point was related to Britain's financial position. 

Another point we must ultimately consider is the relationship between the end of British war crimes trials and the political situation in Southeast Asia, because the change in the political situation within the region caused conditions in which war crimes trials could not be conducted any more.

To start with Malaya[xxix], although the Malaya Union was founded in April 1946, it failed as a result of strong opposition from the Malays. As a result, when the Federation of Malaya was set up in February 1948, the Chinese found themselves with an inferior status to the Malays. With Malay nationalism growing more rapidly than the British had expected, Britain had to change her policy in the region.

On the other hand, the Malayan Communists Party, comprising mainly Chinese, gradually changed its stance toward the British. In the end, it launched a military insurrection in February 1948 and the British authorities declared a state of emergency in June 1948. It was not until 1960 that Malaysia declared an official end to the Emergency.

Thus, the anti-Japanese Chinese who had collaborated with the British during the war became anti-British. The relationship between the British and the Chinese had completely changed. And as noted earlier, the main victims of Japanese war crimes in Malaya and Singapore were Chinese, many of whom had a greater or lesser connection with the communists. It is safe to say that the political significance of the war crimes trials with its prosecution of crimes against the Chinese disappeared with the Emergency and that Britain soon lost interest in taking the trials any further.

The Malays, the leading ethnic group in Malaya, had little interest in the trials, although the Malays had also suffered from the Japanese military occupation. While the last trial in Malaya finished in January 1948 and that in Singapore in March 1948, the conditions of continuing war crimes trials had disappeared entirely with the outbreak of the Emergency.

In the case of Burma, independence was achieved in January 1948 as the Burmese rejected Dominion status. British war crimes trials ended before independence.

Before the war, the Karens, Kachins, and other ethnic groups were pro-British and had provided personnel to the police and local militias, while the Burmese were generally involved in nationalist movements. During the war the Burmese, who collaborated with the Japanese in an effort to expel the British, often took part in atrocities carried out by the Japanese against the Karens and other minority groups[xxx]. In the final stages of the war, the Burmese betrayed the Japanese and expelled them from Burma with the help of the British. Thus, the Burmese became the leading ethnic group in independent Burma. One may say that this was why the Burmese government had no interest in bringing Japanese war criminals to trial[xxxi].

Finally, as for Hong Kong, although it seems reasonable to suppose that British war crimes trials formed part of the policy for re-colonising the territory after the war, it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss this case.

  In concluding, I wish to emphasise once again that the British war crimes trials were conducted in the context of British policy vis-à-vis the rebuilding of her empire. In order to recover her prestige in the region, the British had to bring to trial those accused of war crimes against local people. Full advantage was taken of the relationship between Force 136 and SEAC on the one hand and Malayan anti-Japanese groups such as the MPAJA on the other. The British trials would have been ineffectual without the collaboration of local people who suffered from Japanese aggression.

On the other hand, the rapid rise of nationalism in the colonies was beyond British expectations. As a result, Britain could not find any interest in conducting the war crimes trials and consequently dispensed with them when the interest of local people in war crimes was not in harmony with policy. Thus the implementation of British war crimes trials was conditional on the political situation in Southeast Asia at the time.

As a result, although many Japanese war criminals did come to trial, numerous others remained untried and Japanese responsibility for those crimes has not been accepted as yet.

  

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[i]  There are numerous books in Japanese that deal with war crimes trials. As for@Japanese books, see Tokyo Saiban Handobukku Henshu-Iinkai[The Editorial Committee of Tokyo Tribunal Handbook], Tokyo Saiban Handobukku[Tokyo Tribunal Handbook](Tokyo: Aoki-Shoten, 1989) and Hayashi Hirofumi, Sabakareta Senso Hanzai: Igirisu no Tainichi Senpan Saiban[Tried War Crimes: British War Crimes Trials of Japanese] (Tokyo: Iwanami-Shoten, 1998).

[ii]  As for Japanese documents on British war crimes trials, see Chaen Yoshio(ed.), BC-kyu Senpan Eigun Saiban Shiryo[Documents on British minor war crimes trials](Tokyo: Fuji-Shuppan, 1988). The Ministry of Justice has collected documents concerned but these documents are still closed to the public.

[iii] John Pritchard, eThe Nature and Significance of British Post-War Trials of Japanese War Criminals, 1945-1948f, Proceedings of The British Association for Japanese Studies, Vol. 2(1977),  eThe Historical Experience of British War Crimes Courts in the Far East, 1946-1948f, International Relations, Vol.Y, No.1(1978), and eLessons from British Proceedings against Japanese War Criminalsf, The Human Rights Review, Vol.V, No.2(1978).

[iv]  John Pritchard, eThe Nature and Significance of British Post-War Trials of Japanese War Criminals, 1945-1948f, 211.

[v][v]  John Pritchard, eThe Historical Experience of British War Crimes Courts in the Far East, 1946-1948f, 322.

[vi]  The material in this paper is derived mainly from the Public Record Office, UK and the National Archives, US. All references to the documents of both archives appear in parentheses in the text. The file number gRGh alone shows the documents of the National Archives.

[vii] War Cabinet 131(44), (CAB65/44, 66/55).

[viii] War Cabinet 152(44) on 21 November 1944, (CAB65/44, 66/57).

[ix]  L.M.Godfrey, E Group Consolidated Report: July-December 1945, preserved in the Imperial War Museum.

[x]  We can find many articles concerned on Straits Times, Straits Chronicle, Malayan Daily News and so on which were published in Singapore and Malaya.

[xi]  As for the activities of SEAC and Mountbatten, see WO203/4926.

[xii]  As for the procedure of war crimes trials of Japanese, see ALFSEA, War Crimes Instruction No.1 & No.1(2nd Edition), (WO203/2080, 6092).

[xiii]  Ubukata Naokichi, eKyokuto Saiban no Rekishiteki Imif[The historical significance of the Far Eastern tribunal], 61, in Kokumin Kyoiku Kenkyusho[Institute of National Education](ed.), Kyokuto Saiban: Kyoiku Shogen no Kiroku[The Far Eastern Tribunal: The Record of Testimonies on Education] (Tokyo: Gendaishi Shuppankai, 1975).

[xiv]  Iwakawa Takashi, Koto no Tsuchi to Narutomo: BC-kyu Senpan Saiban[Even if I would perish in a lonely island: Class B & C war crimes trials] (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1995), 205.

[xv]  Peter Dennis, Troubled Days of Peace: Mountbatten and South East Asia Command, 1945-1946 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987), 11-12.

[xvi]  A letter from British Minor War Crimes Liaison Section, Tokyo to War Crimes Legal Section, SEALF, dated 6 June 1947(WO325/5).

[xvii]  It can not be discussed here for lack of space. As for the details of the Malaya Union, see A.J.Stockwell (ed), British Documents on the End of Empire: Malaya, Part 1 (London: HMSO, 1995), British Policy and Malay Politics during the Malayan Union Experiment, 1942-1948 (Kuala Lumpur: The Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1979), Albert Lau, The Malayan Union Controversy, 1942-1948 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), and Kibata Yoichi, Teikoku no Tasogare: Reisenka no Igirisu to Ajia[The Twilight of the Empire: Britain and Asia under the Cold War] (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1996).

[xviii] See, for example, a memorandum of Mr.Monson dated 1 September 1943(CO825/35/13). He was in charge of British policy of Malaya in the Colonial Office.

[xix] As for the allegation of fifth column, see CO273/671/9.

[xx] As for the general activities and system of SOE, see Michael Richard Daniell Foot,  SOE: An Outline History of the Special Operations Executive 1940-46  (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1984), and Charles Cruickshank, SOE in the Far East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983).

[xxi]  As for MPAJA, see Gene Z. Hanrahan, The Communist Struggle in Malaya  (Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1971).

[xxii] See, for example, a memorandum of the commander, Force 136 dated 12 March 1945(WO203/4332).

[xxiii] A signal from Mountbatten to British Chiefs of Staff dated 19 April 1945 (WO203/4403).

[xxiv]  See Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten: The Official Biography (London: Collins, 1985), Chapter 24-27, and Christpher Thorne, Allies of Kind: The United States, Britain and the War against Japan, 1941-1945  (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1978), Chapter 32.

[xxv]  Draft of a signal to the Chiefs of Staff dated 19 April 1945(WO203/4403).

[xxvi]  Spencer Chapman, The Jungle is Neutral  (London: Triad/Panther, 1977), 196. In his book he states the massacre of Titi village but it was Jelundong, a village in Titi district, to be exact.

[xxvii]  For example, see HS1/121.

[xxviii]  As for this case, see Sybil Kathigasu, No Dram of Mercy (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1983) and Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Sacrifice for Peace (Singapore: Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, 1995, published in Chinese).

[xxix] As for Malaya, see, in addition to the books given in the footnote 17, Cheah Boon Kheng, Red Star over Malaya (Singapore: Singapore University Press, Second Edition, 1983) and Gene Z. Hanrahan, The Communist Struggle in Malaya.

[xxx] We can find many investigation reports of Japanese war crimes in Burma in a series of WO325, such as WO325/27,33,97 and 123.

[xxxi] There were close relations between the treatment of war criminals and that of collaborators with Japanese. For example, Although Aung San, the leader of Burmese nationalists, was in danger of being arrested for murder committed in wartime, he had not been brought to trial in the end owing to the opposition of Mountbatten and so on. It needs further consideration. As for Aung Sanfs case, see Nemoto Kei, Aunsan[Aung San] (Tokyo: Iwanami-Shoten, 1996)pp. 148-154.