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This Week in History:

September 30 - October 6, 1935
Principles of the Nuremburg Tribunal

October 2012

Nuremberg Trials. Some of the defendants in the dock.

October 1, 2012 marked the 66th anniversary of the judgment at the Nuremberg Tribunal, the first of the trials of Nazi war criminals, which have defined for the ensuing period the nature of crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. Ironically, as pointed out by law professor David Luban in an article on the blog balkanization on Sept. 23, 2006, this anniversary occurs at virtually the same time that the Congress of the United States has ratified the evisceration of those principles, and those of the Geneva Conventions.

In arguing for the Cheney-Bush Administration's policies of torture and Presidential prerogative, as enshrined in the "compromise" military detainee legislation passed by the Congress in 2006, its adherents have been at pains to emphasize that the U.S. must assert its national interests, as against so-called international law. Yet. up until this vote, it was actually U.S. standards of conduct—established by President Abraham Lincoln's Lieber Code during the U.S. Civil War, and the insistence of U.S. Nuremberg Prosecutor Robert Jackson, especially—that defined the standards of international law in the area of war.

Today's Nazis. Above, left to right: George W. Bush, Richard (Dick) Cheney; left: Barack Obama.

The Barack Obama Administration has not called for the repeal of any of the laws passed during the Bush Administration regarding military detainees Quite the contrary, in the National Defense Authorization Act passed in December 2011, President Barack Obama claims the right to indefinitely detain anyone, and ship that person to any place, without trial, "on suspicion of terrorism"... as defined by the President!

President Barack Obama has not only continued, but massively expanded the Bush Administration program of assassination and drone warfare, killing or mutilating thousands of non-combatants along with a much smaller number of radical Islamic jihadists. And finally, the murder of Muammar Gaddafi while in captivity, and the war against Libya itself, besides being illegal under U.S. law, are clear violations of the Principles of the Nuremburg Tribunal, Principle VI, parts a and b.

The Nuremberg Principles

No one was more eloquent in asserting the Nuremberg principles than Justice Jackson, who insisted that the standards established thereby must apply not just to the "little people" who commit them, but to those men of great power who conspired to have those crimes carried out by their underlings. In his opening address to the Tribunal, which opened in November of 1945, he made this ringing charge:

Justice Robert Jackson

"The real complaining party at your bar is Civilization.... The refuge of the defendants can only be their hope that International Law will lag so far behind the moral sense of mankind that conduct which is crime in the moral sense must be regarded as innocent in law. Civilization asks whether law is so laggard as to be utterly helpless to deal with crimes of this magnitude by criminals of this order of importance...."

Clearly, the Bush and Obama Administrations would have opposed Justice Jackson's view, as well as the vote by the United Nations General Assembly on April 12, 1950, to enshrine the Nuremberg Principles in international law. The United States not only supported that vote, but championed it.

We include here the Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal, in full:

Principle I

Any person who commits an act which constitute a crime under international law is responsible therefor 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 trail 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 to slave-labor, or for any other purpose, of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of 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 inhuman 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 crimes against peace, war crimes, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.


The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly in October 2006, but has more urgency today as the Barak Obama Administration's violations of the U.S. Constitution and international law accelerate, to the point of bringing the U.S. to an imminent thermonuclear war with Russia and China.


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