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Title: Justice for strangers : culture and communication in the Singapore war crimes trials, 1946-1948
Author: Cheah, Wui Ling
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 5374
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This dissertation, entitled Justice for Strangers, is an in-depth historical and socio-legal analysis of 131 war crimes trials conducted by the British military in Singapore after the Second World War (the Singapore Trials). These trials involved diverse participants who spoke different languages and hailed from different legal systems and cultures: British and Allied judges and prosecutors; Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean accused; Japanese defence counsel; and hundreds of Asian witnesses from as far afield as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. My dissertation is based on under-explored archival material and is also the first comprehensive study of the Singapore Trials, trials that are important because of their regional scope. After the war, Singapore served as the hub for British war crimes investigations in Asia. Allied judges and lawyers from Australia, the U.S. and the Netherlands participated in the Singapore Trials. Defendants were prosecuted for war crimes committed not only in Singapore but throughout the region. The Singapore Trials thus reveal much about British and Allied war crimes policy in Asia. This study is organised around three questions: (a) How did the cultural difference between trial participants give rise to problems of language, participation, and argumentation; (b) How did judges respond to these problems and why did they choose to do so in particular ways; (c) What could have been done better in the Singapore Trials and what lessons do these trials hold for present-day war crimes trials. Among others, my findings confirm that participants need to share a certain amount of shared cultural knowledge for effective communication at trial. Cultural learning is nevertheless possible, and judicial intervention can minimise the impact of culturally related communication problems.
Supervisor: Kurkchiyan, Marina Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available