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Axes to grind: The Hirohito war guilt controversy in Japan

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Chapter Summary

On 14 August 1945, the Shōwa Emperor, known as Hirohito in the west, issued an ?august decision? to accept the Potsdam Declaration and end the Second World War. The Indictors hold Hirohito guilty of, or mainly responsible for, starting and prolonging an imperialist war of aggression that brought death and destruction to Japanese and non-Japanese alike. In August 1945, Hirohito?s ?august decision? silenced fanatic opposition by the military. Absolvers defend Hirohito against charges of war guilt. The Imperial Constitution of 1889 stipulated that ?state ministers assist the emperor and assume responsibility for him,? and that ?all laws, imperial ordinances, and other imperial rescripts related to affairs of state require the countersignatures of ministers? in order to take force. The 1889 Imperial Constitution ensured Hirohito?s immunity from criminal proceedings, and he was never charged with war crimes under international law, so his innocence is indisputable on strictly legal grounds.

Keywords: criminal proceedings; Hirohito guilty; Imperial Constitution; Japan; Potsdam Declaration; Shōwa Emperor

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