HC Deb 29 June 1948 vol 452 cc1979-82
12. Mr. William Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for War why Major General Kinoshita and Sergeant-Major Yoshiga, of the Japanese Army, who were handed over to the British authorities as war criminals, having been in charge of Bridge House, Shanghai, during the war where numbers of British nationals were tortured and starved, have been released by order of His Majesty's Government.

13. Colonel Wheatley

asked the Secretary of State for War why Major General Kinoshita and Sergeant-Major Yoshigi were released by the Hong Kong authorities without trial or punishment for the brutalities committed by them in Shanghai against British subjects, Chinese and other allies during the war.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)

These men were released because it proved impossible, despite extensive investigations over a considerable period, to obtain evidence of personal complicity sufficient to bring them to trial. The decision to drop the case was made after careful consideration by the Deputy Judge Advocate General in the Far East, who is responsible for the preparation and prosecution of war crimes cases.

Mr. Teeling

Will the right hon. Gentleman state definitely that it was not because our Attorney-General felt that these trials must not go on after 31st March? Can he further explain, in view of the fact that there were three men in this case and the Chinese tried the third, and the fact that most of these people were appallingly tortured, worse than the people in Belsen—most of them were allies and not necessarily British—why we have not asked the Chinese whether they would like to try the other two, as they gave a life sentence to the third?

Mr. Shinwell

I should require notice of of the last part of the supplementary question. I have no information about the attitude of the Chinese Government in matters of this sort. As regards the first part of the supplementary question, the sole reason why these cases have not been proceeded with was because it was impossible to obtain sufficient evidence, in the judgment of the Deputy Judge Advocate General, and it was unwise to keep these people in prison indefinitely without trial.

Mr. Eden

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the statement in Question 12 is correct, that these officers were in charge of Bridge House, Shanghai; and since it is notorious that appalling tortures were inflicted on prisoners there, how can it be that there is no evidence available?

Mr. Shinwell

I do not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of what occurred. I have no doubt there is some evidence in that connection. All I can say is that I am advised by the responsible legal authority as to the action that should be taken, and I can go no further than that.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this has caused a great deal of indignation among a great many people not only in Shanghai but among those who have returned to this country, and in view of the fact that there is local opinion that a great deal of evidence was not sought for which could have been obtained, will he re-open the question?

Mr. Shinwell

I am conscious of the indignation that naturally arises because of inability to proceed with these charges, and I share it to a large extent, as do other hon. Members, but to re-open the case would be quite a different matter.

Mr. Lipson

Will the right hon. Gentleman make available to hon. Members the evidence on which the Deputy Judge Advocate General decided that it was inadvisable to proceed with the case.

Mr. Shinwell

I hardly think that is customary.

Colonel Wheatley

Is the Minister satisfied in his own conscience that these inhuman creatures should be allowed to go free?

Mr. Shinwell

My view is that people responsible for such crimes ought not to be allowed to go free. That is merely a general principle. Whether we ought to proceed with charges on the basis of insufficient evidence is another matter.

General Sir George Jeffreys

Is the Minister aware that this treatment of this case will inevitably be construed in the East as weakness on the part of the British Government, and will not that have a most unfortunate effect in the event of future trouble?

Mr. Shinwell

Yes, but on the other hand if we had proceeded without sufficient evidence and the charges had failed, there might have been serious repercussions.

Mr. Teeling

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the various sworn reports of people who were tortured in that camp are not sufficient evidence?

Mr. Shinwell

After all, I have to take the advice of the legal people in this matter.

Mr. Teeling

In view of the most unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's replies, I give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

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