On 20-21 November, 2015, the International Nuremberg Principles Academy held the conference titled “The Nuremberg Principles 70 Years Later: Contemporary Challenges.”
The two-day conference addressed contemporary challenges for International Criminal Law 70 years after the Nuremberg Trials. It marked the anniversary of the opening of the trial against Nazi leaders before the International Military Tribunal. On this historic date, the International Nuremberg Principles Academy invited high-profile participants to attend an intensive exchange. Bringing the conference to a close was a performance of “A Song of Good and Evil”, an artistic representation of the Nuremberg Trials written by British human rights lawyer Philippe Sands and performed by Katja Riemann and himself.
The opening of the conference took place in a packed Courtroom 600 at the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. Professor Thomas Buergenthal, President of the Academy’s Advisory Council as well as an Auschwitz survivor and a former judge of the International Court of Justice, presented the current role of the Academy: the promotion of the Nuremberg Principles which, in turn, contributes to the development of international criminal law and the protection of human rights.
In her keynote address, Professor Leila Sadat, human rights and international criminal law expert, established the links between the formation of the Nuremberg Principles and their current significance.
After this introduction, the first panel of experts debated the role of international and national courts in promoting human rights and international criminal law. The session was moderated by David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice.
In the afternoon, the conference addressed the Universality of the Nuremberg Principles, particularity in Islamic and African societies. Dr Oscar Schneider, former German Federal Minister and one of the main initiators of the Academy, introduced the topic. His passionate speech was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Professor Matthias Rohe of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Among the panelists were the Iranian Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the first woman of Muslim faith to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Professor Shaheen Sardar Ali, the first female province minister in Pakistan. Both argued strongly in favor of the universal validity of the Nuremberg Principles, including in Islamic societies. Professor Tiyanjana Maluwa, former legal advisor of the African Union, acted as respondent on the topic of Africa.
On the second day of the conference, three parallel workshops discussed case studies revolving around the following topics: “Universality of the Nuremberg Principles from an Islamic Perspective”, “Complementarity and Cooperation” and “Acceptance of International Criminal Justice”. The various workshop panels consisted of internationally renowned legal practitioners and human rights activists, as well as highly-qualified junior researchers.
In the conference’s final session, a working group of the International Law Commission (that held a meeting in parallel to the conference) reported on the Draft Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity, which will hopefully be adopted one day by the United Nations. The results of the three conference workshops were also presented. In his closing remarks, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt, the Founding Director of the Academy, declared: “This conference has impressively confirmed the universal validity of the Nuremberg Principles. The high number of experienced and younger participants from 4 continents demonstrates once again the international significance of the Nuremberg legacy – 70 years after the Trials began.”
New members of the Advisory Council
In the run up to the conference, the Academy’s Advisory Council held a meeting on 19 November. This was the first Advisory Council meeting with four new members of the Council: Dr. Cecilia Medina Quiroga, former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Dr. Athaliah Molokomme, first female Attorney General of Botswana, Betty Kaari Murungi, well-known Kenyan human rights lawyer, and Dr. Karl Huber, former President of the Bavarian Constitutional Court.
Artistic highlight to conclude the event
Concluding the two-day conference was a special performance of “A Song of Good and Evil”, a piece by human rights lawyer Philippe Sands which addresses with emotional depth the remarkable fusion of the fates of three of those involved in the Nuremberg Trials – the two jurists Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin, and Hans Frank, Hitler’s lawyer and Governor General in occupied Poland. Courtroom 600 provided the ideal venue for the combination of readings, images, films and music from Bach to Leonard Cohen. German actress Katja Riemann gave a striking performance before eye-witnesses to the Trials and Holocaust survivor Thomas Buergenthal.