Professor Robert CribbThe war crimes trials of Japanese after the Second World War were the most ambitious attempt ever to reckon legally with the perpetrators of mass violence in Asia. Yet many observers believe the trials failed to achieve justice. Paradoxically the trails had been both as too lenient and as too harsh: too lenient because perpetrators escaped, too harsh because Japanese were the only Asians ever indicted for war crimes under international law, despite the atrocities perpetrated in subsequent conflicts. Japan's position in this respect is curiously like that of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Driven, like Japan's leaders, by political desperation, party leaders launched a desperate strike against a much more powerful enemy. Savage retaliation followed, bringing death and suffering upon vast numbers of people who had no role in the decision to attack. The aftermath of the defeat of both Japan and the PKI was political discrimination against survivors and their descendants. Japan and the PKI were punished for failed grabs for power, Japan substantially, the PKI savagely; both still face accusations of enduring historical guilt which are deployed to restrict or disqualify them from political participation. Both have responded ineptly to these accusations with forms of denialism. The example of Germany suggests that embracing guilt may be the only way forward.

This keynote is a free public event. 

Professor Robert Cribb

Professor Robert Cribb is a historian of modern Indonesia, with wider interests in other parts of Asia. He completed his BA at the University of Queensland and his PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He has held positions at Griffith University, the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study, the University of Queensland and the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. His research focusses on the intersection between mass violence and national and political identities. He also writes on environmental politics and historical geography. His latest book, Japanese War Criminals: The Politics of Justice After the Second World War [with Sandra Wilson, Beatrice Trefalt, and Dean Aszkielowicz] will appear in 2017 with Columbia University Press.

About IAGS Conference 2017 - Public Events

The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) will hold its thirteenth meeting in Brisbane on 9 – 13 July 2017, at the St Lucia campus of The University of Queensland. The conference is jointly hosted by the TC Beirne School of Law and the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

The conference theme is “Justice and the Prevention of Genocide”.

Find out more about the IAGS Conference.


Abel Smith Lecture Theatre (#23)