Transitional Justice Delayed Is Not Transitional Justice Denied: Contemporary Confrontation of Japanese Human Experimentation During World War II Through a People’s Tribunal

PEOPLE'S TRIBUNALS, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND THE LAW: SEARCHING FOR JUSTICE 163-74 (Regina Menachery Paulose ed., 2020)

U of Houston Law Center No. 2020-A-2

25 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2020 Last revised: 7 Apr 2020

See all articles by Zachary D. Kaufman

Zachary D. Kaufman

University of Houston Law Center; Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law; Yale University - Law School; Stanford Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

Human experimentation by Japanese officials during World War II presents one of the most horrifying instances of state-sponsored brutality. Since the end of the war, however, the Japanese government has not officially recognized that these “atrocity crimes” occurred, nor has the U.S. government acknowledged its postwar role in sheltering the perpetrators of these heinous acts. This appalling yet unaddressed affair therefore demands international attention. Because typical “transitional justice” options are unavailable or inappropriate, the solution may lie in an innovative civil society initiative: a “people’s tribunal” that could pressure the Japanese and U.S. governments to bring meaningful closure to this tragedy.

Part I of this chapter explains the need for contemporary confrontation of Japanese human experimentation during World War II. Part II makes the case that a people’s tribunal is a compelling transitional justice option for addressing these crimes, arguing that such a tribunal could raise public awareness about these offenses and shame the relevant authorities into action. Part III argues that, in any event, other transitional justice options would not be suitable for this case. Part IV concludes by drawing lessons from this case study about the promise and perils of attempting to promote justice and accountability for past atrocity crimes.

Note: An earlier version of this book chapter was published by the Yale Law & Policy Review.

Keywords: Japan, United States, human experimentation, people's tribunals, World War II, international law, international criminal law, transitional justice, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, atrocity crimes, sexual abuse, rape, women, comfort women, International Criminal Court, ICC, ICTR, ICTY

Suggested Citation

Kaufman, Zachary D., Transitional Justice Delayed Is Not Transitional Justice Denied: Contemporary Confrontation of Japanese Human Experimentation During World War II Through a People’s Tribunal (2020). PEOPLE'S TRIBUNALS, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND THE LAW: SEARCHING FOR JUSTICE 163-74 (Regina Menachery Paulose ed., 2020), U of Houston Law Center No. 2020-A-2, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3519689

Zachary D. Kaufman (Contact Author)

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Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

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