Book Presentation and Discussion - From Streicher to Šešelj: The Origins and Outlook of Atrocity Speech Law


On 7 June 2018, the International Nuremberg Principles Academy hosted a book presentation and discussion by Professor Gregory S. Gordon of his new book Atrocity Speech Law: Foundation, Fragmentation, Fruition (Oxford University Press 2017), which was held in the historic Courtroom 600 at the Nuremberg Palace of Justice.

“Atrocity Speech Law” – a term coined by Professor Gordon describing the legal relationship between hate rhetoric and international crimes - was born at the Nuremberg Trials nearly 75 years ago and has developed rapidly since the end of the Cold War.  Professor Gordon emphasizes, however, that it is now a broken body of law, given that, among other things, incitement to genocide has not been adequately defined and the rulings on hate speech as persecution are split between ad hoc tribunals.

The book puts forth a set of proposals to deal with the individual gaps in the law and then proposes a more global solution: "A Unified Liability Theory," which would systematically link the core crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes with four retooled/new speech offenses - incitement (speech not leading to violence), speech abetting (a new modality for speech uttered during violence), instigation (speech leading to violence) and ordering (expanded to cover liability for orders not carried out).

Surveying the law from the conviction of Julius Streicher in 1945 at Nuremberg to that of Vojislav Šešelj (on appeal) in April 2018, this presentation critically discussed how the law has become fragmented and ineffective, suggesting how hate speech in service of gross human rights violations can be more effectively stymied and/or punished. This presentation highlighted the legacy of the Nuremberg trials in relation with contemporary efforts to prevent atrocity in modern conflicts and contexts such as Myanmar, Syria, Iraq and South Sudan.

Professor Gregory Gordon teaches international criminal law and related courses at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and formerly served as CUHK’s Associate Dean for Development/External Affairs, and Director of its Research Postgraduates Program.


Prof. Gregory Gordon presents his book in historic Courtroom 600
Prof. Gregory Gordon explaining speech categories
Dr. Viviane Dittrich, Deputy Director of the Nuremberg Academy, asking a question
Prof. Gregory Gordon discussing with Klaus Rackwitz, Director of the Nuremberg Academy
Question from the audience
Prof. Gregory Gordon
Dr. Viviane Dittrich, Prof. Gregory Gordon and Klaus Rackwitz