|Title:||War Crimes Act, 1945|
|Title in original language:||War Crimes Act 1945 [taking into account amendments up to Act No. 24 of 2001] : an act to provide for the trial and punishment of war criminals|
|Entry into force:||11.10.1945|
The original legislation in 1945 was enacted in order to facilitate the trial of Japanese defendants for the alleged commission of atrocities in World War II. The legislation authorized the establishment of Australian Military Tribunals for this purpose. In the 1980s a Royal Commission found evidence that many European war criminals had entered Australia after World War II by lying about their participation in the war. Following the tabling of the Report of this Royal Commission, the Australian Government completely amended the original legislation to provide for the prosecution of war crimes committed in Europe during World War II.
Three cases have been instituted pursuant to the legislation. Two defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence at the committal stage of proceedings. The only defendant to be tried was Ivan Polyukovich. He unsuccessfully challenged the constitutional validity of the legislation (see: Commonwealth v. Polyukovich (1991) 172 Commonwealth Law Reports 501) and was tried. However, he was acquitted by jury at the trial stage of proceedings because the prosecution was unable to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt.