Accounting for atrocities

The international community has been failing in its obligations to protect global populations from atrocities. Global Insight assesses what intervention and accountability need to look like going forward.


Jennifer Venis, IBA Multimedia Journalist wrote on Friday 5 February 2021



November 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, convened to pursue justice and accountability for the crimes of the Second World War. The first trial began six months after Germany had surrendered, and marked the first time the words – and charges – ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ were used in court.


Opening the case for the prosecution was the American lead prosecutor, Robert Jackson, who acknowledged his ‘grave responsibility’ in commencing a case with such precedent. ‘That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung by injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgement of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has paid to reason,’ he stated.


Toby Cadman, Co-Founder and Head of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, tells Global Insight that ‘Nuremberg was an important process, but it was far from perfect – it was victor’s justice, and there were concerns about whether if that trial took place today it would correspond with our notion of what are considered universally accepted norms for fair trial’.


‘But,’ he says, ‘that should not be interpreted to undermine the significance of that process and what that process started. It was the foundation for a field of law and a way of, when you look at how political war crimes are by their nature, depoliticising a political process to ensure that it has a lasting impact. That process has evolved over time and continues to evolve even today’.


One of the prosecutors from Nuremberg also advocated strongly for the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), so the international community would be prepared to intervene, and to seek accountability, should atrocities like the Holocaust occur again.

‘Never again’ became the mantra. It was supposed to be a promise. But since the Nuremberg trials, several atrocities, including genocides, have occurred – and the international community has struggled to keep this promise.


Whole article you can read on International Bar Association web site.

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