The international trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo
The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials established, for the first time, the charge of “crime against humanity”.
These competent international penal courts tried representatives of Germany and Japan (politicians, military personnel, etc.). They did not try states themselves.
The Nuremberg trials
On 8th August 1945, the Governments of France, Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the London Agreement, drawing up the statutes of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) charged with trying major Nazi criminals. Nineteen UN Member States subsequently joined this organisation, ensuring the IMT’s international standing.
These trials of twenty-two high-level Nazi leaders (Hitler was dead) have gone down in history as the “Nuremberg Trials”. From 20th November 1945 to 1st October 1946, they were symbolically held in Nuremberg, a city that had been the venue for major Nazi party rallies.
The Nuremberg International Military Tribunal statutes constitute the first legal text defining the notion of crime against humanity as:
« Any inhuman act”, such as ’murder, extermination, reduction to slavery, deportation (…) committed against any civil population before or during war, or persecutions for political, racial or religious motives when these acts or persecutions have been committed after any crime falling within the competence of the Tribunal ».
Twelve other trials were held independently, but on the same premises in Nuremberg, by the Americans.
One hundred and eighty four people were tried; they were grouped by occupation: Medical physicians, lawyers, senior civil servants, military personnel, policemen, industrialists.
Within each of their Occupation zones, the Allies tried over ten thousand people in all. More than a thousand death sentences were handed down.
The Tokyo trial
On 19th January 1946, the statutes of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East were promulgated on the orders of General Mac Arthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Japan.
Eleven judges were designated by the Member States of the Far East Commission: Australia, Canada, China, United States, France, Great Britain, India, New Zealand, Netherlands, Philippines, USSR.
The tribunal was in session in Tokyo from 3rd May 1946 to 12th November 1948.
It tried twenty eight Japanese civil or military leaders. Seven criminals were sentenced to death and the others to life imprisonment, except for one twenty year and one seven year sentence. Emperor Hirohito was not prosecuted.