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Modern understanding of command responsibility has been largely shaped by the 1946 conviction and execution of General Tomoyuki Yamashita in the Philippines, in which he was held responsible for his troop’s atrocities against the civilian population in a last bid to attempt to secure Manila, despite having issued no orders for those atrocities. So large is the shadow of this case that there has been little scholarly research that focuses on Yamashita’s complicity in issuing the genju shobun or severe punishment order, which resulted in the horrific massacres that took place in Singapore and Malaya. Since the Sook Ching (肃清or purge through cleansing) Massacres is not a classic case of command responsibility, it is worthwhile to analyse the way Yamashita gave the orders and examine how responsible were those officers.
This thesis examines the key features of the British justice system created under the 1945 Royal Warrant and finds out how this system was applied to these Japanese military officers to determine their motives. Court transcripts yielded from the British ‘minor’ war crimes trials held across Singapore and Malaya will be analysed to determine how these men attempted to justify their participation. In doing so, this paper argues that although the colonial authorities were successful in applying the British legal system in the prosecution of those defendants who clearly carried out the massacres on their own initiative, it was less effective when it was applied to those who did not understand why they were put on trial for merely carrying out orders issued by their superiors. To this group of officers, it was clear that the court refused to understand their perspective even when they tried to explain themselves in terms of Japanese military culture. Regardless of their responses, this thesis suggests that they were all accountable for the killings and as the overall commander Yamashita, should ultimately be responsible for his subordinates’ interpretation of the genju shobun order.
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checked on Aug 16, 2022
checked on Aug 16, 2022
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