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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The trial within : negotiating justice at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1946-1948 Sedgwick, James Burnham


This dissertation explores the inner-workings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE). Commonly known as the Tokyo trial, Tokyo tribunal, or Tokyo IMT, the IMTFE brought Japan’s wartime leadership to justice for aggression, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed during World War II. Using rare sources in three languages from public and private collections in eight countries, this dissertation presents a multi-perspective experiential history of the IMTFE in operation. By placing the court in a distinct international moment that produced the United Nations, the Nuremberg trial, the Genocide Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other outgrowths of global community, this work explores the IMTFE as both a groundbreaking judicial undertaking and a pioneering multilateral institution. Other scholars use overly reductive and judgmental constructs based on outside-looking-in perspectives to assess the court’s legal or moral legitimacy without appreciating or detailing its nuance and complexity. This dissertation prefers an inside-out view to explain the trial, not judge it. It describes the IMTFE as a collective endeavour and experience behind the scenes. Chapters review the personal, emotional, administrative, logistical, legal, political, and global dimensions of internationalism in action. Justice emerged as a contested encounter inside an involute web of intimate and external factors; transitional and transnational forces. Outside pressures – including postwar idealism, decolonisation, and the Cold War – meshed with and filtered through the intrinsic elements of ‘being international’ on the ground: social interaction, personal responses, and professional engagement. This ‘trial within’ influenced every aspect of IMTFE processes and outcomes, and the complexity of its internal dynamics best explains enduring criticism and memory of the court as a political trial or manifestation of victors’ justice. Although a unique historical moment, the IMTFE reveals basic, foundational truths about the essence of all international organisations and other modes of ambitious global governance. Ultimately, this dissertation uses the IMTFE to reinterpret modern internationalism as a complex, messy, and negotiated encounter rather than a staid set of promises and ideals: a process and experience that ultimately – inevitably – compromised principles for politics, and form for function.

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