War crimes: judge who exposed a sham trial
Posted on August 11th, 2012

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Janaka Perera

This month marks 67 years since the occurrence of three events that marked a turning point in world history.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  They were the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on AugustƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 6ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ andƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 9 and consequently JapanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s offer of unconditional surrender to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union on August 15.

The people of the victorious nations received the news of the surrender offer with unrestrained joy.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In Washington DC and San Francisco celebrations turned into a wild orgy. In the former, a crowd attempted to break into the White House Grounds and in San Francisco two women jumped naked into a pond at Civic Center to soldiersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ cheers. After six years (1939-1945) World War II had finally ended.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It marked the end of an era and the dawn of a new age where Japan would have no independent clout in global politics.

No pundit called the celebrations of the victors ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”triumphalismƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ which was the term used to condemn the celebrations of Sri Lankans who suffered for 30 years under the LTTE yoke. Unlike Europeans American civilians in the U.S. mainland suffered no casualties in the world war

In 1945 hardly anyone focused on the manner in which World War II victors prosecuted the war against Japan or its true causes – except one man. HeƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ proved in a court of law the Western Allies were not on high moral ground than defeated Japan.

This legal luminary was Justice Radhabinod Pal one of the 11 Allied judges in the International Military Tribunal which convened on April 26, 1946 to try Japanese military and civilian leaders for their roles in the world war.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Judge Pal who had served in CalcuttaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s High Court in British India was also a lecturer at the University of Calcutta Law College. Having been an Asian nationalist and sympathizer of anti-colonial struggles he saw things different from other judges of the tribunal. He was the only judge who handed down a not-guilty verdict for all of JapanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s top wartime leaders although he fully acknowledged JapanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s war crimes.

Pal viewed the Tokyo trial to be unjust and unreasonable trial, contributing nothing to lasting peace. According to his view, the trial was a case of the victors judging the vanquished, resulting in nothing but the satisfaction of the desire for vengeance. In his lone 1,235-page dissent he refers to the trial as a “sham employment of legal process for the satisfaction of a thirst for revengeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

He believed the exclusion of Western colonialism and the U.S. atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the list of war crimes and of judges from the vanquished nation on the bench, signified the “failure of the Tribunal to provide anything other than the opportunity for the victors to retaliate.”

He also described the U.S. atom bombings as the worst atrocities of the war, comparable with Nazi crimes.


Quoting theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Survey of International Affairs 1932, Pal turned the target of the criticism toward the colonial policies of Western Powers, according to Author Nakajima Takeshi (Asia Pacific Journal):.

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Was it not Western Imperialism that had coined the wordƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”protectorateƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ as a euphemism for ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”annexationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢? And had not this constitutional fiction served its Western inventors in good stead?ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

In colonizing parts of Asia, Japan had merely aped the Western powers, he said. Pal questioned why only Japan should be held responsible for acts aggression.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ WerenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t Western countries morally guilty as well in practicing colonialism? If the acts of aggression by Western countries were not charged as crimes, why should Japan be charged,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ was his line of argument.

From a historical point of view, Justice Pal saw the fundamental cause for JapanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s acts of aggression as rooted in colonialism by Western countries. He noted US Navy Commodore Matthew PerryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s visits to Japan in the 1850s and the conclusion of unequal treaties with Western Powers such as the US, Tsarist Russia, Great Britain, France and Holland in the late Edo Era was a fundamental cause of Japanese imperialism. The world in which Japan had been thus forced to appear,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”rightƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ andƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”justiceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ were measured in terms of battleships and army corps.

Regardless of Justice PalƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s political opinion, his legal reasoning is today considered a landmark in international law.

But American occupation forces in Japan formally banned Judge Pal’s typewritten book-length dissent from publication. It was released only in 1952 after the occupation ended and after Japan signed a treaty recognizing the legitimacy of the Tokyo Trials. Pal’s publication was also prohibited in Great Britain and it remained unpublished in the United States as well.

Many Japanese revere Justice Pal today far more than he is remembered in his own country.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ HeƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ was a believer in humanism based on the philosophy of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”DharmaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ from ancient India. He advocated Gandhism, and dreamt of the day humans would establish ideals based on pacifism.

However on a visit to Japan in 1952, Pal was bitterly disappointed with the Japanese after reading the inscription of the Atom Bomb Memorial in Hiroshima, The words on the inscription were, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Let all the souls here rest in peace. For we shall not repeat the evil,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢

Pal said:

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Obviously, the subject ofƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”weƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ is Japanese. I do not see clearly what ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”evilƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ means here. The souls being wished to rest here are the victimsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ of the atomic bomb. It is clear to me that the bomb was not dropped by Japanese and the hands of bombers remain bloodstained.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

The inscription virtually amounted to innocent Japanese civilians being made to feel guilty of the bomb being dropped on their city by Americans!!

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara who is often accused of being a rightwing extremist made the following observation 17 years ago:

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Many Westerners act as if human rights are their moral ace in the hole, until their abysmal record in Asia is cited, and their position collapses like a house of cards. Pointing out their hypocrisy does not deter the Americans, however. They blunder on, badgering Asian governmentsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ (Voice of Asia Two Leaders Discuss the Coming CenturyƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ quoted inƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Asiaweek, September 8, 1995)

What is of significance to Sri Lanka is not Justice Pal absolving wartime Japanese leaders but the moral duplicity of the Western Allies the Tokyo hearing exposed – a duplicity that continues to this day in the global sphere. They have taken upon themselves to judge others and dictate terms to those who fail to fall in line with their thinking.

2 Responses to “War crimes: judge who exposed a sham trial”

  1. Dham Says:

    No doubt, Attomic Bomb in Japan is the most horrific barbaric inhumane war crime in recnet history.
    So far , only “Air” has been procecuted and brought to jestice by so called “war crime (creating) tribunal”.

  2. AnuD Says:

    Dropping the bomb itself was an experiment as they did not know what would the repercussions be. that is why the plane ran away as fast possible because they did not know how it would end. It was the same with Iraq war for destroying WMDs. they finished all the old weapons and tested new ones to see how those would work.

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