Gary J. Bass

Dec 15, 2023

Judgement at Tokyo

World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia

Knopf 2023

Judgement at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia (Knopf, 2023), a book ten years in the making, is the definitive account of the postwar trial of Japan’s leaders as war criminals, and the impact it had on the modern history of Asia. 

Written by Gary Bass, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, the book shines a much-needed spotlight on the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the criminal process historically overshadowed by its namesake in Nuremberg for the senior leaders of the Nazi regime in the Third Reich. In the weeks after Japan finally surrendered to the Allies to end World War II, the victorious powers turned to the question of how to move on from years of carnage and destruction. To them, it was clear that Japan’s militaristic leaders needed to be tried and punished for their crimes. For the Allied powers, the trials were an opportunity both to render judgment on their vanquished foes and to create a legal framework to prosecute war crimes and prohibit the use of aggressive war. For the Japanese leaders on trial, it was their chance to argue that their war had been waged to liberate Asia from Western imperialism and that the court was no more than victors’ justice. Professor Bass tells a meticulously-researched compelling story of wartime action, dramatic courtroom battles, and the epic formative years that set the stage for the postwar era in the Asia–Pacific. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the meaning and morality of international justice, in all its messy complexity and contradiction.

Alex Batesmith is a Lecturer in Legal Profession in the School of Law at the University of Leeds, and a former barrister and UN war crimes prosecutor, with teaching and research interests in international criminal law, cause lawyering and the legal profession, and law and emotion. LInkedIn. Twitter: @batesmith

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Alex Batesmith

Alex Batesmith is a Lecturer in Legal Profession at the School of Law, University of Leeds, UK. His research focuses on lawyers, their professional self-identity and their motivations, and how these shape the institutions and the discipline in which they work. Twitter: @batesmith

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