Human Rights and Genocide: The Work of Lauterpacht and Lemkin in Modern International Law, Part I
European Journal of International Law, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2009
45 Pages Posted: 10 May 2009 Last revised: 5 Mar 2014
Date Written: January 30, 2009
2008 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Genocide Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly. These two instruments adopted and proclaimed by the then newly formed world body on successive days, 9 and 10 December 1948 respectively, represent two sides of one coin. Born of the horrors of the 1930s and 40s, the United Nations Charter speaks of human rights and to the importance of the rule of law. The Genocide Convention and UDHR are integral to the pursuit of these aims.
The work of two international lawyers, Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin, whose personal and familial histories traverse the tragedies of twentieth century Europe, was instrumental in the realisation of these twin efforts. This article is Part I of a two-part project which examines their respective contributions to contemporary international law by concentrating on their European experience from their youth in Central Europe and the early days of the League of Nations to their mature work up to and including the Nuremberg Judgment. Part II of the project focuses on their US experience and their efforts to realise a new international legal order in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Part I is divided into four parts. First, I provide an overview of their early personal histories. Second, I consider their earliest critiques of state sovereignty and the notion of international law as a system of law which served as a prelude to their mature work. Next, their seminal works are examined against the backdrop of the rise of National Socialism in the 1930s and the Shoah. The fourth and final section explains how they put this work into practise at the Nuremberg trials of the major Nazi officials in 1945-46.
Keywords: International Law, Human Rights, Genocide, Lauterpacht, Lemkin
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation