Yamashita Precedent

The Yamashita Precedent refers to commanding officers’ responsibility to both refrain from committing war crimes and also stop those under their command from committing them. Under the precedent, officers ignoring and/or failing to meet this responsibility may be held responsible for war crimes even if it cannot be proven that they were aware of them. The term originates from the 1945 trial by military tribunal of General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Japanese commander of the Philippines, who was hanged for war crimes committed by his men that he failed to prevent. The precedent has been largely superseded by more recent cases and has not been widely referenced in military legal decisions. This entry reviews the background and events of the trial and discusses its legal implications.

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