Rediscovering the Tokyo Trial

China Social Science Review

No.2, 2020


Rediscovering the Tokyo Trial



Xu Chi


The Tokyo Trial was an international criminal trial that held Japan to account for its war crimes during WWII. For the first time in human history, it established the criminality of wars of aggression and pursued individual criminal responsibility under international criminal justice. It advanced the gestation and development of the international criminal rule of law and contributed to the pursuit of peace by means of law. However, due to Japanese academics’ “labeling” of “historical view of the Tokyo Trial”, the excessive duration of the trial, the negative effect of the judges’ personal views, and other factors, the particular judicial features of the Tokyo Trial were obscured and the Tokyo Trial did not get the same praise as the Nuremberg Trial. The Tokyo Trial verdict adhered to the rule of law and due process, and its interpretation and definition of crimes against peace led to the International Tribunal’s recognition of the criminal nature of Japanese aggression. Although it was not perfect, the Tokyo Trial was still a serious international criminal trial. To rediscover its value, we should put the Tokyo Trial into a broader historical context, and evaluate and research it as an international judicial event. We should identify the core legal issues of the Tokyo Trial from the perspective of history, development and diversity, combined with judicial and historical research methods.