Nuremberg war crimes trials, 1945 - a warning to others
“To initiate a war of aggression ….. is the supreme international crime, only different from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of all the others” – Declaration of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, 1945
“To initiate a war of aggression is a crime that no political or economic situation can justify”.
“. . . if certain actions in violation of treaties are criminal actions, these are criminal actions whether committed by the USA or by Germany. . . We are not willing to endorse a law that may condemn the criminal behaviour of others unless we are prepared to have those laws invoked against ourselves as well”. – US Supreme Court, Justice Robert Jackson – Principal Attorney for the USA at the Nuremberg Tribunal, 1945.
“. . . the second aim of the trial was to establish the rules of international law for the future, so that not only the launching of wars of aggression would be illegal, but also, for the first time, to make the rulers who lead their countries into wars of aggression personally responsible for their actions” – Lord Shawcross – Principal British Prosecutor at Nuremberg, 1945
“Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring” — Declaration of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, 1945
The Nuremberg Principles
Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal. Confirmed unanimously by the General Assembly of the United Nations in Resolution 95, 11 December 1946. Adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations, 1950.
Principle I. Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.
Principle II. The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.
Principle III. The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.
Principle IV. The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
Principle V. Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.
Principle VI. The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:
(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
(b) War Crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave-labour or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
(c) Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.
Principle VII. Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
Declaration on principles of international law in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations
Extract from UN General Assembly Resolution – 24 October 1970.
“No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law.
No State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State.
The territory of a State shall not be the object of military occupation resulting from the use of force in contravention of the provisions of the Charter. The territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force. No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal.
Every State has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Such a threat or use of force constitutes a violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations and shall never be employed as a means of settling international issues.
A war of aggression constitutes a crime against the peace, for which there is responsibility under international law.
In accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, States have the duty to refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression.”