On 30 September and 1 October 2021, the International Nuremberg Principles Academy and the Robert H. Jackson Center hosted two high-profile roundtable discussions, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the final Judgement of the International Military Tribunal, and considering the Judgement’s ongoing impact on modern international criminal law.
The roundtables comprised most of the currently active international prosecutors from the various ad hoc tribunals and the permanent International Criminal Court. Speakers addressed several common themes, reinforcing the conviction that the Nuremberg Judgement remains an essential part of international law, both in its foundations and in its daily practice.
They addressed politics as a "bright red thread" that runs through international criminal law, and that while the international tribunals may be "creatures of political compromise", political consensus made the Nuremberg trials possible, and it is essential for today’s tribunals and courts.
One speaker suggested that "Nuremberg represents a stubborn attempt to hold onto values greater than us." One of those, linked to the concept of consensus, is that of balance. Nuremberg was about "humanity at the bar", as Justice Jackson argued, and not about the interests of any single nation.
The balance of national traditions and of competing considerations began at Nuremberg and with the parallel UN War Crimes Commission in the 1940s and remains at the heart of international justice until today. That balance includes civil versus common law practices, balances in types of evidence used (Justice Jackson preferred documentary evidence, but video and tech-based evidence is increasingly common), and balancing expediency versus the interests of victims.
Speakers urged innovation and creativity in meeting the challenges facing international investigations and prosecutions but reminded viewers that there is "no silver bullet" and as with Nuremberg, such trials are not easy and likely never will be.
Finally, the discussion touched on the idea that the "living legacy" of Nuremberg is the community that endeavours to make international justice a reality today. A brief report of the event will be available shortly, as will a YouTube video of the event.
©Photo: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD; Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps