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Rule of law has replaced Rule of the stronger

The rule of law has replaced the rule of the stronger

Since the Nuremberg Trials crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity have been punishable under international law. These trials laid the foundation for the development of an international judiciary system.


Speaking at a conference in Berlin on November 21 entitled "The Nuremberg Trials 60 Years On - Lessons for the Future" Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries noted that at the Nuremberg Trials, which began on November 20, 1945, government leaders were for the first time held accountable for crimes they committed and no longer able to hide behind the mask of immunity.

As a result of the trial against major war criminals in the Nazi leadership as well as twelve further trials against a variety of other governmental, military, industrial, and professional leaders, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity became an integral part of international law.

Civil wars subject to international law

Zypries observed that the end of the Cold War and East-West confrontation made it possible to establish international tribunals for the purpose of prosecuting crimes committed during the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, thus placing civil wars under the rules of international law.

Zypries remarked that the work being done by the International Criminal Court in The Hague since March 2003 is proof that the rule of law has replaced the rule of the stronger in international judicial matters.

International Criminal Court important for the future

Zypries indicated that as a result of the introduction of the International Criminal Code violations of international criminal law have become punishable offenses in Germany regardless of where they are committed. This does not mean that every violation of international law will be dealt with by a German court. What this does do, however, is create a backup option that will help keep perpetrators from getting away with their crimes. If the country with primary jurisdiction is not willing or able to prosecute the crimes in question, the perpetrators could be tried before a German court.

Zypries went on to say that for the acceptance of international criminal law it is indispensable that it not be dismissed as 'victors' justice'. She added that it is of preeminent importance that all members of the international community, including the major powers, ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

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