Saturday, November 6, 2010

Komodo Dragons in Nuremberg

Ray: This evening we're privileged to have with us Dr. Darryl Dexter from Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Dr. Dexter is one of the world's experts on international criminal law, and in particular the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Dr. Dexter, thanks for being here tonight. Please tell us about the tribunal.

Bob: The International Military Tribunal was created by the London Charter of August 8, 1945. Its purpose was to give fair and public trials to those charged with war crimes under existing International Humanitarian Law, at that time mainly the Hague Conventions of 1906, although other international agreements were also applicable, such as the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and Warfare, Geneva, 17 June 1925. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany. The first and best known of these was the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, which tried 22 of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany. It was held from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946.

Ray: Where was it held?

Bob: The....most well known International Military Tribunal Trials at Nuremberg were the name the City of Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany. A number of other sites for the trials had been considered, such as Leipzig, Munich, and Luxembourg, but Nuremberg was chosen because the Palace of Justice was intact, there was a large prison attached, and Nuremberg had been a powerful symbol of the Nazi regime, and for example, the scene of many theatrical demonstrations for propaganda purposes, the so-called "Nuremberg Rallies."

Ray: Why choose Nuremberg particularly?

Bob: The .... choice of Nuremberg allowed the trials - particularly the Trial of Major War Criminals - to proceed in an open forum to give some credence to the ideal, as put forward tenaciously by Robert H. Jackson, then chief American prosecutor, and as articulated in a subsequent address to the Canadian Bar Association in 1949, that: "... those who gave some of the best effort of their lives to this trial are sustained by a confidence that in place of what might have been mere acts of vengeance we wrote a civilized legal precedent and one that will lie close to the foundations of that body of international law that will prevail when the world becomes sufficiently civilized."

Ray: I read somewhere that an American judge thought what went on at Nuremberg might be important in the future. Is that true?

Bob: Yes. The....chief...American prosecutor...Robert H. Jackson, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, also the Canadian Bar Association in 1949, in his address entitled Nuremberg In Retrospect: Legal Answer To International Lawlessness: "...I do think that we have forever laid to rest in the minds of statesmen the vicious assumptions that all war must be regarded as legal and just, and that while the law imposes personal responsibility for starting a street riot, it imposes none for inciting and launching a world war." And certainly the so-called "Nuremberg Principles" have been an important foundation for the subsequent development of international law, through the United Nations and establishing of the International Criminal Court.

Ray: So these principles would be used by our own Military Commissions trials now going on in Guantánamo?

Bob: Well...

Ray: Dr. Dexter, I can see we've about exhausted this topic. Do you have a ride home this evening?

Bob: As a matter of fact, no.

Ray: Well, perhaps a member of the audience would give you a lift to Guantánamo. It can't be far from there to Upper Montclair, New Jersey.

Bob: Thanks, I'd appreciate it.