The International Military Tribunal (“IMT”) was formed to try cases involving war crimes. The IMT originated when the British, American, Soviet and French Governments signed an agreement called the London agreement on August 8, 1945. The Charter of the International Military Tribunal (“IMT Charter”) was also created on that date and governs the IMT.
According to the IMT Charter, the IMT consists of four members with an alternate member for each. The presence of all four members (or the alternate in the absence of any of the members) is required to form a quorum. Before a trial begins the members will choose one member as the President to hold the office during the trial. The presidency is rotated for successive trials. If it is found necessary, other IMTs are established based on the number of cases to be tried.
The IMT generally conducts trials on crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Even if a defendant is a head of state, a responsible official of a government, or if the defendant acted pursuant to order of his/her government or of a superior, it will not be a reason to free the defendant or mitigate punishment.
The IMT is allowed to draw its own rules of procedure as far as the rules are not conflicting with the provisions of the IMT Charter. The Chief prosecutors are appointed by each signatory member to investigate the charges and to prosecute major war criminals.
The IMT has the power to:
- summon witnesses to the trial and to require their attendance and testimony and to put questions to them
- interrogate any defendant,
- require the production of documents and other evidentiary material,
- administer oaths to witnesses, and
- appoint officers for the carrying out of any task designated by IMT including the power to have evidence taken on commission.
The IMT aims to conduct trials expeditiously and takes strict measures to prevent any action which will cause reasonable delay. The IMT also has the power to impose appropriate punishment for improper conduct during the proceedings, including exclusion of a defendant or his/her counsel from some or all further proceedings, but without prejudice to the determination of the charges.
The IMT proceedings are as follows:
- Initially, the Indictment is read in court.
- The IMT asks each defendant if the defendant pleads “guilty” or “not guilty.”
- Prosecution makes an opening statement.
- The IMT asks prosecution and defense to produce evidence if any and rules upon admissibility of the produced evidence.
- Examination of prosecution witness is done before the examinations of defense witness.
- Rebutting evidence may be submitted by the IMT.
- IMT may put questions to any witness and to any defendant, at any time.
- The prosecution and the defense shall interrogate and may cross-examine any witnesses and any defendant who gives testimony.
- The defense addresses the court.
- The prosecution addresses the court.
- Each defendant can make a statement to the IMT.
- The IMT delivers judgment and pronounce sentence.
A judgment delivered by IMT is final and is not subject for review. The judgment will state the reason on which it is based.
Under the IMT Charter the IMT only tries suspects whose acts had consequences across national boundaries. If the suspect’s acts were localized then the suspect would be tried by each of the four nations’ own war crime courts. The crime courts of the four countries follows the procedures of the particular country. However, the operations and charters of these courts are highly influenced by the IMT Charter.