Sub Navigation

Print this Page. Send this Page.

Associated Project

The Prize of Justice. The Dutch involvement in East Asian War Crimes Trials, 1940-1950 
Lisette Schouten (M.A.)

With the Second World War still raging on, representatives of the Allied governments gathered in a number of organizations such as the London International Assembly, the International Commission for Penal Reform and Development, and the United Nations War Crimes Commission, to address the use of legal means to confront war crimes and to establish a practical scheme for the prosecution and punishment of war criminals. Through the likes of Dr. de Moor and Captain-lieutenant Mouton, the Netherlands took on an active role in these first international efforts, determined to contribute towards the adjudication of international crimes. As a result of this Allied exertion, the Axis ‘arch criminals’ were put on trial at the International Military Tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo, while numerous ‘minor perpetrators’ were sentenced in national war crimes courts.
Scholars have often emphasized that these Allied war crimes trials in Asia and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMFTE) in particular, have helped to install a Western concept of jurisdiction within the region. This project, however, enquires whether an East-West counter-current on European legal practice, emanating from the experience in Asia, existed. The project uses the Dutch war crimes trials held in the Netherlands East Indies– which were conducted from the vantage point of a colonial power, involved colonial staff and focussed on maintaining the old world order – as a case-study. Unlike in the motherland, where peace had been re-established, Dutch Indies post-war justice took place in a period of great internal turmoil and fast-changing international political relations. As a result of the Netherland’s precarious political position and its double experience with war crimes both in the motherland and in its colony, different perceptions of what was acceptable in times of war and what was indeed guilty action emerged. Based on an analysis of the Dutch involvement at the IMTFE in Tokyo and the ‘B & C’ trials in the Netherlands East Indies, the project argues that the personal experiences of Dutch legal staff involved, reshaped their ideas of justice, colonial rule and international law.

Lisette Schouten completed her undergraduate (2008) studies in History at Leiden University (The Netherlands). She received her Master of Arts in History in 2009 from Leiden University where she participated in the MA Europaeum Programme in European History and Civilisation (Leiden, Paris, Oxford). Her thesis was entitled'Humanitarian Internationalism. Contextualizing the Dutch Movement against the Traffic in Women and Children during the Interwar Period'. In October 2011 she joined the Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies where she is finalizing her Ph.D. project: ‘The Prize of Justice. The Dutch involvement in East Asian War Crimes Trials, 1940-1950’.


‘Netherlands East Indies’ War Crime Trials in the Face of Decolonization’ in K. van Lingen (ed.), Justice in times of turmoil: War Crimes Trials in the Wake of Decolonization and Cold War in Asia, 1945-1956 (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming).

 ‘Colonial justice at the Netherlands Indies war crimes trials’ in K. Sellars (ed.), Trials for International Crimes in Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

‘From Tokyo to the United Nations: B.V.A. Röling, International Criminal Jurisdiction and the Debate on Establishing an International Criminal Court, 1949-1957’ in M. Bergsmo, Cheah Wui Ling and Yi Ping (eds.), Historical origins of international criminal law (Torkel Opsahl Academic Epublisher, 2014).