The Lessons of Nuremberg and the Trial of Saddam Hussein
Douglas J. Sylvester
Arizona State University - College of Law
EVIL, LAW AND THE STATE PERSPECTIVES ON STATE POWER AND VIOLENCE, John T. Parry, ed., Amsterdam/New York, NY, Vol. 14, p. 213, 2006
Law’s engagement with evil is nowhere as evident as in the trials of history’s brutal dictators, thugs, and war criminals. The imaginative range of law’s response to such evil may be ably captured by reviewing the major international atrocity trials of the last half-century. And indeed, international law scholars have long been interested in assessing the impact and import of such trials. In legal circles, these trials (and Nuremberg in particular) have achieved somewhat mythical status. Often praised for their commitment to the substantive criminalisation and de-politicisation of mass-crimes, they are also subject to academic panegyrics for their perceived commitment to the principle that all trials, regardless of defendant or circumstance, must be “fair” and conducted with “due process.” In and of itself, this commitment appears uncontroversial—but in the context of mass-crime trials such as those used in the prosecutions of Nazi war criminals and, of late, the murderers of Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the unquestioning commitment to a defendant’s due process rights is not without its costs. This paper examines some of those costs and attempts to place Nuremberg in a broader historical context that reveals its institutional commitment to pageantry as much as process.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
Keywords: International law, Nuremberg, genocide, Hussein, trials
Date posted: August 30, 2005 ; Last revised: October 29, 2009