Khabarovsk War Crime Trials

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Khabarovsk War Crime Trials were hearings held between 25–31 December 1949, in the Soviet Union’s industrial city of Khabarovsk (Хабáровск), the largest city within the Russian Far East (Дáльний Востóк) adjacent to Japan. There, twelve members of the Japanese Kwantung Army were tried as war criminals for manufacturing and using biological weapons during World War II.

During the trials, the accused, such as Major General Kiyoshi Kawashima, testified that, as early as 1941, some 40 members of Unit 731 air-dropped plague-contaminated fleas on Changde. These operations caused epidemic plague outbreaks.[1]

All twelve accused war criminals were found guilty, and sentenced to terms ranging between two and twenty-five years in a labour camp. In 1956, those who were still serving their sentence were released and repatriated to Japan.

The USSR published official materials relating to the trial in English. It included documents from the preliminary investigation (the Indictment, some documentary evidence, and some interrogation records), testimony and last pleas from the accused, some expert findings, and speeches from the State Prosecutor and Defense Counsel, verbatim. The edition has long been out of print.

According to one bioethics expert, “Despite its strong ideological tone and many obvious shortcomings such as the lack of international participation, the trial established beyond reasonable doubt that the Japanese army had prepared and deployed bacteriological weapons and that Japanese researchers had conducted cruel experiments on living human beings. However, the trial, together with the evidence presented to the court and its major findings — which have proved remarkably accurate — was dismissed as communist propaganda and totally ignored in the West until the 1980s.”[2]

Accused and their sentences[edit]

  • 12 years imprisonment
    • Maj. Onoue Masao, former chief of a branch of Unit 731
  • 3 years imprisonment

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Daniel Barenblatt, A Plague upon Humanity, HarperCollins, 2004, pp. 220-221.
  2. ^ Jing-Bao Nie, “The West’s Dismissal of the Khabarovsk trial as “Communist Propaganda”: Ideology, evidence and international bioethics,” in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, April 2004, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 32-42.
  • Boris G. Yudin, Research on humans at the Khabarovsk War Crimes Trial, in: Japan's Wartime Medical Atrocities: Comparative Inquiries in Science, History, and Ethics (Asia's Transformations), Jing Bao Nie, Nanyan Guo, Mark Selden, Arthur Kleinman (Editors); Routledge, 2010, ISBN 0-415-58377-2
  • Materials on the Trial of Former Servicemen of the Japanese Army Charged with Manufacturing and Employing Bacteriological Weapons, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1950