This thesis examines the background to the formation of the international Military Tribunal for the Far East, its jurisdiction, powers, procedures and proceedings, so far as they relate to issues relevant to accusations of war crimes made against a former Premier of Japan, Koki Hirota. Hirota, who was Foreign Minister, 1933 to 1936, Premier between 4 April 1936 and 2 Februar7 1937, and Foreign Minister again until 29 May 1938, was a civilian against whom no allegation of personal involvement in any traditional "war crime" had ever been made. He took no active part in the political life of his country after his resignation, yet he was arrested and charged with a series of crimes ranging from murder to "crimes against peace". The tribunal sat in Tokyo between April 1946 and November 1948.
Although some 28 persons were accused and before, and convicted by the tribunal, this thesis concentrates on the issues of fact, history and law which relate to the fairness of the trial granted to Hirota. The thesis canvasses the historical setting in which Hirota held high office, the conduct of the trial itself, the issues on which the members of the tribunal exchanged correspondence, some of the extensive and complex arguments concerning jurisdiction and the crucial role in international law played by the Pact of Paris. Further, it considers the majority judgment so far as It relates to the notion of a criminal conspiracy of which Hirota was alleged to be a part and the findings of fact and law made In respect of Hirota. The separate judgments are briefly examined, in particular the judgments of Roling J and Pal J, as is the separate concurring opinion of the President, Sir William Flood Webb. The appellate procedure and its aftermath are canvassed.
The trial was undertaken at a time when its results were expected to conform with notions then held as to the responsibility for the commencement of World War Two. The arrest of Hirota was ordered on the grounds that several of the Allied nations held the view that he had committed, or at least was responsable for conspiracy to commit war crimes. He was convicted in 1948 of being in breach of a rule of international law said to have been in existence since 1928, but which was not really apparent even to the victorious allies until after Hirota had left public life.
None of the accused were acquitted.
Hirota's conviction and subsequent execution were based largely on political expediency rather than on a breach by Hirota of any duty, in the criminal law sense, owed by him to his Emperor, his country or to international law. While the trial process was clothed with some of the traditional safeguards afforded to ordinary prisoners in a domestic criminal trial, those safeguards proved quite illusory for Hirota, who was denied even the most simple and basic element essential for a fair trial- a hearing before an impartial tribunal: a hearing without there being present any judge against whom an allegation of bias might properley be brought. His execution was not, in my opinion, justified by any rule of law in force and understood by Hirota at the time he committed the offences alleged. The trial was one which was organized to convict.