The International Nuremberg Principles Academy hosted a public lecture by Professor Gerry Simpson in the historic Courtroom 600 of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice titled “One Hundred Years of Turpitude: A Century of War Crimes Trials”, on 9 September 2019.
In the illustrated lecture, Professor Simpson (Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science; Fellow of the British Academy) offered an assessment of a century of war crimes trials and accentuated the merits and limitations of the system of international criminal justice. In particular, he made reference to the conviction and execution of Edith Cavell during the First World War, the Versailles Peace treaty and the failure of the Dutch to extradite Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1919, the Moscow Trials from 1936 to1938, the 1945 Nuremberg Trial, the 1961 trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem, the 1987 trial of Klaus Barbie, and the 2015 failure of the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution for establishment of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to investigate the downing of Flight MH17 in July 2014.
Alluding to the notions of justice depicted in Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1955) and JM Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), Professor Simpson interrogated the very notion of justice and reflected on the interplay of law, justice and politics and between history and memory. He also explored the relationship between political opportunism and the intended universalism of international criminal justice as well as the requirements of the rule of law generally.
The event concluded with a discussion moderated by Dr. Viviane Dittrich, Deputy Director of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, and a lively interaction with the audience about the current challenges of international criminal law, in relation to the lessons and legacies of the different war crimes trials in history.
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