The Nuremberg Trial, Seventy Years Later
Washington University Global Studies Law Review, Vol. 15, No. 575, 2016
18 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2016 Last revised: 14 Sep 2020
Date Written: June 7, 2016
The trial of the major German war criminals by the International Military Tribunal is universally recognized as a pivotal juncture in the development of international criminal law. Seventy years on, what can be learnt from that experience? This essay examines the Nuremberg Principles and their legacy in national and international law in the seven decades since they took place. It first examines the Nuremberg trials themselves along with the important role played by Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States, before turning to the impact of the trials on the development of international law, national case law of individual states and the establishment of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals. It then examines two modern challenges to the Nuremberg legacy: firstly, the unfinished business of codifying and enforcing the Nuremberg principles themselves, including the need for a new global convention on crimes against humanity and universal ratification of the ICC Statute: and. secondly the challenges posed by the noncompliance of states with the Nuremberg Principles, particularly with respect to the unlawful use of force and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Finally, the essay concludes that: (1) international justice does not need to be perfect to work; (2) international criminal trials are not the only way to ensure accountability; and (3) both the Nuremberg trials themselves and the subsequent establishment of the International Criminal Court have had long-lasting and extraordinary effects on the modern world.
Keywords: international courts and tribunals, international criminal court, war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, united nations, war on terror, Nuremberg principles, human rights law, aggression
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