THE historic war crimes trials that were held in the Northern Territory after World War II will be examined at a public event hosted by Australian Red Cross in Darwin on Wednesday, February 19.
In March and April of 1946, the Australian military tried 22 Japanese soldiers for war crimes, including the ill-treatment of Australian and British prisoners of war in Timor.
Ten of the soldiers were convicted during the trials in Darwin, with nine sentenced to prison terms of up to five years. One, found guilty of murdering two prisoners of war, was sentenced to death. He was later executed in Timor, where the crimes took place.
Geoff Skillen, an expert in international criminal law and chair of Red Cross’ international humanitarian law Advisory Committee, will host the event. “These historic trials are a unique example of the enforcement of international humanitarian law on Australian territory,” Mr Skillen said.
Speakers will include Dr Georgina Fitzpatrick and Dr Narrelle Morris from the University of Melbourne’s Law School.
They have both extensively researched the 300 Australian war crimes trials convened under the War Crimes Act 1945. As well as the Darwin trials, the Australian military conducted trials on several islands around the Asia Pacific region between 1945 and 1951.
Supported by the City of Darwin and the University of Melbourne, the forum is part of a series of events being run across the country during Australian Red Cross’ Centenary Year, highlighting the diverse roles of the humanitarian organisation.
Australian Red Cross has a mandate under the Geneva Conventions to promote an understanding of, and respect for, international humanitarian law. These ‘laws of war’ aim to restrict the way wars are fought and protect those not, or no longer, involved in the fighting, such as civilians, prisoners of war and the wounded.
Red Cross is not involved in the prosecution of war crimes – this responsibility falls on States and bodies like theInternational Criminal Court.
Source: Red Cross Australia