Shigenori Togo was born on 10 December 1882.
As a career diplomat he was given a post at the Japanese Embassy in Germany in the 1920’s. He was appointed Ambassador to Germany in 1937.
From 1938 to 1941, Shigenori Togo held the post of Japanese Ambassador to Moscow.
In 1941, Togo was appointed Minister of Foreign and Colonial Affairs in the cabinet of Prime Minister Tojo. In this position, he played an important role in the pre war negotiations with the United States, whilst at the same time supporting the position of those willing to go to war, a situation which led the allies to accuse him of duplicity. After war was declared, he collaborated with the other members of the cabinet concerning the conduct of the war in the Pacific and in China. He resigned in September 1942 following a dispute within the cabinet concerning the manner in which to treat the occupied countries since he was against the more aggressive policy of Tojo.
In April 1945, after three years being spent out of power, Shigenori Togo was invited back into government and appointed again Minister of Foreign Affairs and Greater East Asia in the Suzuki cabinet. Being in favour of putting an end to the war he supported the Potsdam Declaration. Throughout the summer of 1945, he argued on the side of the Japanese surrender. On 9 August following the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, he was one of the three ministers in the Supreme War Council who was in favour of surrendering.
At the end of the war, Shigenori Togo was arrested by the allies and imprisoned in Sugamo.
At the end of the war, Shigenori Togo was arrested by the allies and imprisoned in Sugamo to stand trial before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East set up by the Allied powers. He was indicted on the following counts.
No°1: responsibility for waging wars of aggression and wars in violation of international law,
No°27: war of aggression against China,
No°29: war of aggression against the United States,
No°31: war of aggression against the British Commonwealth,
No°32: war of aggression against the Netherlands,
No°36. war of aggression against the USSR,
No°54: authorizing violations of the laws and customs of war.
No°55: disregard of duty to take all necessary measures to impose respect and prevent violations of the conventions and the laws and customs of war.
During deliberations concerning his guilt with respect to count No°36, the prosecution was unable to find sufficient evidence of criminal action on his part, his role being limited to signing, in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the agreement between the Russian and Japanese authorities with respect to the border between Manchuria and outer Mongolia. Moreover, the prosecution made no mention of any negligence on his part with respect to his duty to prevent the commission of war crimes, Togo having forwarded to the relevant authorities all the assertions concerning the commission of such crimes thereby fulfilling his duty as hierarchical superior.
Nevertheless, despite the recognition that Shigenori Togo was an anti-militarist and a partisan of peace, the prosecution laid blame on him for cowardice. According to the prosecutor, Togo, given his high position should have put up firmer opposition to the war. In his defence, Togo explained that he had only taken a position in the Tojo cabinet because he was sure that the negotiations with the United States would be successful, and that from the time he took up his post he had demonstrated his opposition to the army thereby gaining concessions from it to allow negotiations to continue. He also considered that it would have been cowardice on his part to resign once war had been declared.
On 12 November 1948, Shigenori Togo was found guilty of counts No°1, 27, 29, 31 and 32, but not guilty of the others.
He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Shigenori Togo died on 23 July 1950 in an American hospital.
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.