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Home arrow Law arrow United States law and policy on transitional justice : principles, politics, and pragmatics
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De Facto Conditional Amnesty

The USG offered immunity and other incentives—including money, food, and entertainment—io over 3600 Japanese government agents, physicians, and scientists involved in Japanese experiments performed during WWII on thousands of civilians and Allied soldiers. The Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731, led by Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii, conducted the most notorious research in Manchuria. These experiments, sometimes referred to as the “Asian Auschwitz,” included vivisections, dissections, weapons testing, starvation, dehydration, poisoning, extreme temperature and pressure testing, and deliberate infection with numerous deadly diseases (such as bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax, smallpox, gangrene, streptococcus bacteria, and syphilis). Had WWII continued, the Japanese planned to use biological weapons developed from these experiments to attack the U.S. military in the Pacific Theater and possibly even the West Coast of the United States itself. After being granted immunity, some Japanese participants in these experiments assumed prominent roles—including senior positions in the health ministry, academia, and the private sector—in postwar Japanese society, allegedly with the assistance or at least knowledge of the USG.140

Through its conscious decision not to hold these alleged atrocity perpetrators accountable, the USG provided amnesty to thousands of Japanese suspected of direct involvement in some of the most horrific crimes of WWII, including those who planned offenses against Americans. As discussed below, because the USG sought information in return for granting these Japanese immunity, such amnesty was implicitly conditional.

Lustration

Finally, through the Allied lustration policy, by mid-1948 more than 200,000 Japanese had been removed or barred, at least temporarily, from public office.141

 
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