Heitaro Kimura was born on 28 September 1888 in Tokyo.
In 1908, he graduated from the Academy of the Japanese Imperial Army as an officer of artillery.
Between 1918 and 1919, he served in the Japanese expedition to Siberia to fight against the Bolshevik army. He was then sent as a military attaché to Germany. He was promoted to Colonel in 1928.
From 1929 to 1931, Heitaro Kimura was the Japanese delegate at the London Conference on Disarmament.
Upon his return to Japan, he became an artillery instructor. He was promoted to Major-General in 1936, then Lieutenant-General in 1938. In 1940, he was appointed Chief of General Staff of the Army of Guandong, one of the most important branches of the Japanese army, which at the time controlled the State of Manchukuo.
In 1941, Kimura was recalled to Tokyo where he was appointed Vice-Minister of the war in the Tojo cabinet (see “related cases”). Therefore, it was alleged that he had perfect knowledge of the plans and preparations for war in the Pacific and China, and he would have supported the plans for Japanese aggression. He was accused of having knowledge of the illegality of the Pacific War and doing nothing to try to prevent it, having even participated. He was relieved of his duties as Vice-Minister of the War in March 1943. He then became a member of the Supreme Council of the War until 1944.
In August 1944, Heitaro Kimura was appointed Commander in Chief of the Japanese army stationed in Burma. He held this post until the surrender of Japan. It iwasalleged that in carrying out his functions, Kimura violated the laws and customs of war in approving the use of prisoners of war for hazardous work, from which they are usually prohibited. They were forced to work in very dangerous conditions and several thousands died. Heitaro Kimura allegedly gave the order and approved the use of prisoners of war for the construction of the railway between Burma and the Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand). In addition, he did not take the necessary disciplinary measures to prevent or to punish the commission of atrocities by his troops.
Despite his failure to counter the Allied attacks and to retain control of Burma, Kimura was promoted to the rank of General in 1945.
At the end of the war, he was arrested by the Allies and imprisoned in Sugamo.
At the end of the war, Heitaro Kimura was arrested and imprisoned in in Sugamo as a Class A criminal for detention prior to being brought before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, set up by Allied forces. He was accused of the following counts:
— No. 1: responsibility for the outbreak of wars of aggression and wars in violation of international law;
— No. 27: war of aggression against China;
— No. 29: war of aggression against the USA;
— No. 31: war of aggression against the British Commonwealth;
— No. 32: war of aggression against the Netherlands;
— No. 54: authorisation of violations of the laws or customs of war;
— No. 55: failure to take all appropriate measures to enforce compliance and to prevent violations of conventions and laws and customs of war.
On the use of prisoners of war for the construction of the railway between Burma and the Kingdom of Siam, the Defence argued that the construction had taken place between 1942 and 1943, before Kimura began his function in Burma. The Defence also alleged that upon his arrival in Burma, Kimura issued orders asking his troops to behave properly and refrain from abusing prisoners. However, in view of the nature and extent of the ill-treatment, the court found Kimura guilty of negligence in connection with his obligation to ensure respect of the implementation of the laws of war in his capacity as commander.
On 12th November 1948, Heitaro Kimura was found guilty of all charges against him.
He was sentenced to death by hanging.
Heitaro Kimura was executed on 23rd December 1948 at Sugamo prison.
THE INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL FOR THE FAR EAST (IMTFE)
After Japan’s surrender in World War II, the victorious powers decided to a institute an International Tribunal aimed at trying those members of the Japanese establishment who were most responsible for the war of aggression waged by Japan and for other crimes perpetrated during the war. The Tribunal was established by means of a decree of the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Far East, US General Douglas MacArthur, on 19 January 1946, amended on the following 25 April.
The IMTFE Charter reproduced almost verbatim the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. The Tribunal had jurisdiction over allegations of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Judges and prosecutors were chosen among the nationals of States who were in war against Japan (United States, Great Britain, Soviet Union, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, France, the Philippines and China). The Tokyo Tribunal received the same criticisms moved to its German counterpart, concerning in particular the modality of its creation, the composition of the judiciary and the respect for the principle of legality. The public prosecution was lead by the American Joseph B. Keenan.
The proceedings at the Tribunal took place between 29 April 1946 and 12 November 1948. In total, 28 former Japanese generals and politicians were indicted. Remarkably, no proceedings were instituted against the then Emperor of Japan, Hirohito. Most accused were charged on counts of crimes against peace, concerning the aggressive policy implemented by Japan before and during the World War. All the defendants were convicted. Seven of them were sentenced to death, most of the others to life imprisonment.
PROCEEDINGS OTHER THAN THOSE AT THE IMTFE
A number of other proceedings were held against Japanese war criminals before courts-martial or military commissions run by each of the victorious Powers. Overall, more than 5600 Japanese nationals were prosecuted, in more than 2200 trials. About 4400 people were convicted, and about 1000 of them were subsequently executed.