Monday, November 21, 2005

60 years since Nuremberg

I so often link to Opinio Juris that I really should get off my backside and put them in the blogroll.

Until then, I want to post in full Roger Alford's post of today, marking 60 years since Robert Jackson stood at the Bar and opened the Nuremberg prosecutions.

Roger says:

""Professor John Barrett at St. John's has reminded me that sixty years ago today Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Counsel for the United States, appeared before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal and made his opening statement. Jackson's speech is one of the greatest in the modern era of international law.

The opening statement began as follows:
"The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason....

What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. They are symbols of fierce nationalisms and of militarism, of intrigue and war-making which have embroiled Europe generation after generation, crushing its manhood, destroying its homes, and impoverishing its life. They have so identified themselves with the philosophies they conceived and with the forces they directed that any tenderness to them is a victory and an encouragement to all the evils which are attached to their names. Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive."
Then in the closing paragraphs Jackson summarizes what is at stake in these trials:

"The real complaining party at your bar is Civilization. In all our countries it is still a struggling and imperfect thing. It does not plead that the United States, or any other country, has been blameless of the conditions which made the German people easy victims to the blandishments and intimidations of the Nazi conspirators.

But it points to the dreadful sequence of aggressions and crimes I have recited, it points to the weariness of flesh, the exhaustion of resources, and the destruction of all that was beautiful or useful in so much of the world, and to greater potentialities for destruction in the days to come. It is not necessary among the ruins of this ancient and beautiful city with untold members of its civilian inhabitants still buried in its rubble, to argue the proposition that to start or wage an aggressive war has the moral qualities of the worst of crimes. The refuge of the defendants can be only 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. It does not expect that you can make war impossible. It does expect that your juridical action will put the forces of international law, its precepts, its prohibitions and, most of all, its sanctions, on the side of peace, so that men and women of good will, in all countries, may have "leave to live by no man's leave, underneath the law."

The full text of the speech is here. More on the Nuremberg Trials is available through Yale Law School's Avalon Project here.""

Why do we keep forgetting the stuff wiser people, with much more experience than us, have said in the past? Why do we keep making the same mistakes???


Blogger Dash Brannigan said...

Interesting factoid about Nuremburg is manner in which the capital sentences were carried out. Those sentenced to death were hung. See, a good hangman can position a noose so that it snaps the neck and kills instantly with little pain.

The best hangman they could muster had everyone swinging for over an hour before they died. It is one of those black marks that taint honorable endvours. An abhorrent act to end what began with Jackson’s fine words.

8:45 pm  

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