Imperfect Justice at Nuremberg and Tokyo
Kirsten Sellars, 'Imperfect Justice at Nuremberg and Tokyo', European Journal of International Law 21 (2010), 1085-1102.
26 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2011 Last revised: 28 May 2019
Date Written: November 1, 2010
When the international criminal tribunals were convened in Nuremberg and Tokyo in the mid-1940s, the response from lawyers was mixed. Some believed that the Second World War was an exceptional event requiring special legal remedies, and commended the tribunals for advancing international law. Others condemned them for their legal shortcomings, and maintained that some of the charges were retroactive and selectively applied. Since then, successive generations of commentators have interpreted the tribunals in their own ways, shaped by the conflicts and political concerns of their own times. The past two decades have seen the establishment of new international courts, and an accompanying revival of interest in their predecessors at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Recent commentaries have analysed the founding documents, the choice of defendants, the handling of the charges, the conduct of the cases – and also the legal and political legacies of the tribunals. They demonstrate that long-standing disagreements over antecedents, aims and outcomes have still not been settled, and that the problems inherent in some of the original charges have still not been solved, despite the appearance of similar charges within the remit of the International Criminal Court today.
Keywords: International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg Tribunal, Tokyo Tribunal, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes.
JEL Classification: K33, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation