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Litigating World War II: The East Asian Experience

Thursday, April 13, 2017, 5:30 pm

The Department of Legal Studies

cordially invites you to the lecture on

 "Litigating World War II: The East Asian Experience." 


Professor Timothy Webster

Assistant Professor of Law

Director of East Asian Legal Studies

Case Western Reserve University

Abstract:  Over the past few decades, human rights litigation has emerged as an important social practice. I posit a theory of discursive justice to interpret the multiple motivations and results of human rights litigation. Examining a recent spate of tort lawsuits against Japan and Japanese corporation for war crimes and other indignities suffered during World War II violations, this Article illumines both the limits and contributions litigation makes. Even when plaintiffs “lose,” as they usually do, the opinion itself provides several non-pecuniary remedies. First, the lawsuits establish basic facts, which are contested in Japan’s political establishment, and East Asian more generally. They effect, in brief, a truth function. Second, the attachment of liability to certain defendants holds out the possibility of compensation, but also serves to correct a long ignored injustice. Third, human rights litigation tells us whether the defendant violated the law. This has important expressive or symbolic implications, of course, but also aids the development of international law generally and human rights law specifically. The model has implications for understanding human rights litigation in other parts of the world, including the United States and European Union.

Timothy Webster is assistant professor of law and director of Asian legal studies at Case Western Reserve University, where he teaches International Business Transactions, International Human Rights, and Property.  His research examines the interactions of the domestic legal systems of China and Japan, and the international legal order.  He has testified before Congress, written for the popular media, and published most recently in the Columbia, Michigan, Northwestern and Penn international law journals.  Previously, he taught at Yale Law School, University of Paris—Dauphine, and National Taiwan University.  Before teaching, he practiced international litigation in New York and Tokyo, and clerked for a federal judge in Boston.