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International Law

An everyday exception

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It might not be evident at first sight, but we are, in fact, living in the most peaceful era of human history. The battles of decolonization and the two world wars having come to an end already decades ago, the world has entered an unprecedented age of geopolitical stability.

Recent terrorist strikes and counter attacks cause indeed significant human suffering, the number of fatalities caused is nevertheless incomparable to previous carnages. This positive development is in part the result of the encroachment of law into international relations, which is supposed to favor peace and concord through the proliferation and respect of treaties between nations. Legal conferences set up by organizations with universal affiliations, permanent international courts and  arbitration  forums  formalize and tighten  relationships  between  countries.  The underlying rules’ interdependency favors cooperation and dialogue over escalation.

While these tremendous efforts have been put forward to keep statespersons from mobilizing troops, experts have also proposed to expand the general trend of peacetime regulation to times of armed conflict by introducing a unique legal framework to be respected in the now less likely event of a military altercation. This is how in the beginning of the twentieth century, the development and codification of the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, substantial parts of what is nowadays known as the Laws of War, brought humanity right to the battlefield. The new legal principles, which were followed by several additional protocols, aim to apply to all forms of warfare and to all types of weapons, those of the past, the present and also those of the future. Furthermore, they do not only deal with standards of certain categories of bullets and projectiles as well as with chemical weapons, but also with the lot of the wounded in the field and at sea, the status of prisoners of war and the protection of civilians and victims.

On the one hand, perfidious combat methods and the use of outstandingly cruel weapons were banned, and civilians were put under particular protection. These changes were largely welcomed because ordnance at the time lacked precision, and fights were marked by paramount brutality on whose constraint everyone agreed upon in their own interest. Moreover, armed conflicts at the time took place mainly between countries – and not within – and were therefore well regulable: once the desired gain of territory was recorded, the war came to an end. On the other hand, the warring parties maintained their license to kill so to speak, an instrument which was explained by the very nature of armed conflicts and had already been part of customs between combatants, the goal of an armed conflict was and is to beat the adversary after all. This explicit permission to kill under certain circumstances is admittedly still today unheard-of in other legal fields, but its formal codification allowed the ratification of the Laws of War by all countries on this planet and their recognition by numerous non-State actors.

It needs to be borne in mind that the precious legal architecture thus established is one of the few fields of law where the long lasting efforts of diplomatic conferences and negotiations led to an international consensus, also between powers that had no friendly relations so far, that had been at war with each other in the past or that were going to be so in the future. It might not only have been the conviction to make a small step towards “doing the right thing” from a humanistic perspective which pushed delegations from States with at the time obviously opposing interests such as Americans, Hungarians, Russians and Japanese to adopt such universal principles. Establishing rules on how to treat the adverse party’s civilians and combatants was also perceived as a reasonable price to pay for the protection which the own population could inevitably expect to benefit from during the following armed conflicts. From the start, the initiators’ idea was never to limit the military clout of the warrying parties, but rather to prevent unnecessary suffering in an already hostile environment.

Despite juridification and humanization of combat methods, war has nonetheless remained an affair of death and cruelty. An armed conflict has continued to be been viewed as a case of extremes, and the application of the Laws of War has been strictly limited to actual times of war. Through the simultaneous consolidation of other fields of law, such as the broadening of procedural law, the extension of civil rights and the individualization of protection norms, the gap between our peacetime guaranties and the ruthlessness of wartime has steadily been deepened. Also for this reason, suspension of our protected civil lives has been only tolerated as a strict exception, which was geographically, temporally and personally limited: this means that while regular soldiers in uniform performed the necessary evil on the battlefield, the rest of the population fled or held its breath and remained passive observers, while ever vulnerable to collateral damages such as death or injury. Subsequently, life continued in peace for both sides with one side inevitably submitting to a new form of sovereignty.

The post- 9/11 “War on Terror” catalyzed by the Bush-Administration and its Western allies twisted this centuries-old exegesis of war-regulating treaties. At stake is not any more the scaling up of territorial claims, but rather the repression of insurgents, economic supremacy and exertion of cultural and geopolitical influence. While international terrorism apparently seeks to threaten us arbitrarily and infinitely, the net reaction seems to be the authorization of occidental armed forces to respond on a permanent basis. Thus, not the times of war but the times of peace would have become the exception, if any. A clear transition from peace to war and the other way around would not exist anymore.

The Western governments’ legal advisors know that the exceptional Laws of War have not been developed for their worldwide and permanent application and that their use cannot fulfill our expectations in a satisfying manner. However, since more, longer and wider-spread military action is considered to be a facile panacea, we are submerged by fear-spreading slogans which make us feel surrounded by threats and which make us overlook how our and others’ civil rights are jettisoned. This, in times where we are less likely to die of unnatural causes than ever before; in times where our well-equipped police forces and sharp witted intelligence services do their best job in history. The only goal seems to be securing discretionary Western use of weapons, even at the costs of international agreements that have been toughly negotiated throughout decades on the basis of reciprocity. While the West refers on the one side to its impressive human rights achievements and does not miss an opportunity to impose sanctions on States which lag behind in this regard, it forgets its humanistic progress when dealing with its enemies– enemies that admittedly might hold little regard or concern for humanism themselves.

In this context, targeted killings of terror suspects are presented as a modern and precise method of war that is to be taken advantage of wherever and whenever deemed useful. Yet, this contradicts the temporary and geographic limits of the Laws of War which we created ourselves and which our soldiers rely on, and it also sets us back to times where it used to be some monarch who disposed of his subjects’ and adversaries’ lives and deaths at his sole discretion and without any rule of law whatsoever. Our war against terror does not only make quick work of its enemies, it terrorizes entire areas, even in countries with which the Occident is not officially at war, such as Somalia or Yemen. Drone strikes, which are often used to carry out targeted killings and which do not expose the own military forces to noteworthy dangers, have dramatically increased during the past years. The civilian population in the Middle East and Southwestern Asia, which is unable to flee from our attacks, perceives them as arbitrary. Reports about the increasing number of civilian victims and misrouted operations neither escape the enemy fighters nor the local populations, whereby the latter was otherwise mostly receptive to Western concerns.

For instance, the local Muslim population’s support for the Islamic State corresponds to a vanishingly low  single-digit  percentage  making  the  analysts  of  a  Pew  poll  come  to  the conclusion that “Muslim publics share concerns about extremist groups.” Another survey shows that the rise of the Islamic State is even the number one concern in young Muslims’ lives. Instead of taking advantage of these unexpectedly shared values, we do not fight our enemies hand in hand with the locally affected population. Pew suggests that only about 3-5% of the Arab population approve US drone strikes compared to more than 60% of the Americans. A report published by Stanford and New York Universities says that Pakistani civilians feel “terrorized” by US drone attacks. Terrorized by the land of the free? And yet, the American citizens seem to be in denial: Less than 3 out of 10 consider themselves very concerned that US strikes could lead to retaliation from extremist groups or that they could damage America’s reputation around the world. Just after 9/11, only 7% of the Muslim population told Gallup that they considered the Twin Tower attacks to be justified, an image which changed drastically after the US “War on Terror” was initiated: already in spring 2003, Pew reported that 71% of Pakistanis and 83% of Jordanians viewed the United States “very unfavorably”.

At the same time, even the Taliban established a code of conduct for its fighters stipulating that “[t]he utmost effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties”, whereas one of their former commanders publicly condemned attacks against Afghan civilians and government officials. No other than Osama bin Laden used to underline the need to protect civilians when fighting the adversary armed forces, an opinion that was confirmed by his secret letters which were seized by the US during the Abbottabad raid.

“It is a hard fact that US strikes have resulted in civilian casualties,” former US President Barack Obama admitted, “These deaths will haunt us”, he said – before continuing to order more drone strikes than any of his predecessors. His successor Donald Trump so far even outpaced him with respect to the number of drone strikes he ordered, the first targeted killing attack under his command was carried out in Yemen at the very day of his inauguration. Ultimately, with so much occidental schizophrenia, the last bit of sympathy for us is dissipating. Who would like fight alongside with the Western world or even make peace with it if its rules are applied whenever deemed convenient for our purposes only? With rulers who pretend to wipe out terrorism by pushing a button and without taking into account the fears of about one billion Muslims living in the affected areas?

One hundred fifty years ago, the Battle of Solferino in Italy brought infinite suffering to the involved soldiers, suffering which triggered the creation of the Laws of War. It was one step towards more humanity as well as a sign of progress towards the rule of law and domestication of the military. Powerful countries with technologically advanced military forces that insist on the alleged permanent permission of the use of violence that such rules contain do not leave the impression that they are partners in good faith, in particular when it comes to conflicts where insurgents and civilians are difficult to distinguish from one another. Our weapons must be internationally connected intelligence services as well as first class equipped police forces – trumps which no terror network in this world has at its disposal. Our enemies must be extradited to our courts. After all, it was possible to condemn the mass murderers of the Nazis during a fair trial in Nuremberg. The merciless laws of armed conflict were developed for exceptional and timely limited periods during which the basic rights in times of peace, such as the right to life and physical integrity, almost disappear. The gap between our precious values and our military’s cold and indiscriminate calculation toward terrorists and innocent civilians does not honor our free and democratic society. It damages the credibility of the Occident and makes our world less safe.

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International Law

Beyond 2020: The Past and the Next 50 Years of the NPT

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The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commemorates the 50th anniversary of its entry into power and the 25th anniversary of its indefinite extension in 2020. Furthermore, 2020 likewise marks the 75th anniversary of the first and only use of nuclear weapons in conflict. NPT is the foundation of the global non-proliferation regime; however, its internal irregularities are getting increasingly problematic. Regarding its non-proliferation objectives, it has arrived at the limit of its potential.[1]

NPT’s existence has convincingly demonstrated the efficacy of its balanced structure of commitments in three key areas: 

Nuclear non-proliferation

Peaceful use of atomic energy

Disarmament. 

The NPT assumed a key job in stalling the spread of nuclear weapons and established the framework for consistent development towards disarmament, primarily nuclear, and the advancement of universal participation in the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy. It can appropriately be considered as an instance of a viable arena for interaction between individuals from the international community in beating global difficulties through multilateral diplomacy.[2]

1995 Review Conference on the indefinite extension of the treaty made it conceivable for the NPT to achieve a permanent character and to guarantee that it works reasonably, by guarding it against political interests and thus reinforced the treaty. The NPT relies on a two-level bargaining framework between the five recognized nuclear-weapon states and other signatories. The states that possessed nuclear weapons would progress in the direction of nuclear disarmament and help the non-atomic weapon states procure peaceful nuclear technology.[3]

States in Asia and the Pacific have been at the front line of global endeavors to actualize the implementation of the NPT. Three of the world’s five NWFZ (nuclear-weapon free zones) are found in the region. These are the Treaty of Rarotonga in South Pacific, the Treaty of Bangkok in Southeast Asia, and the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone in Central Asia (CANWFZ). [4]Establishing a NWFZ was initially proposed by Iran, It and was later formalized by a 1974 UN General Assembly resolution. 

Altogether, that resolution made an attentive stride past the only nuclear centered convention of NWFZ discourse, and called rather not only for a Middle Eastern zone liberated from nuclear weapons, yet in actuality “an effectively verifiable Middle East zone liberated from weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.” [5]To advance that objective, it called on regional states to take “reasonable advances” planned for gaining ground on such a zone and called upon all NPT Parties, and especially the five atomic weapon states under the NPT, to pledge their support.[6]

Friction among the NPT parties reached new levels on 7 July 2017 when 122 NPT individuals casted a ballot for TPNW, which embraces the objective of prohibiting every nuclear weapon, including those controlled by the five NPT nuclear weapon states. The TPNW was opened for signature in September 2017 and has just been signed by 59 nations and approved by ten. As indicated by its advocates, it speaks to a viable measure under Article VI of the NPT by making a lawfully restricting preclusion on atomic weapons. For nations opposing the TPNW, including NATO Allies, the Treaty won’t just be ineffectual but risks undermining the NPT. [7]

The TPNW can be deciphered as an indication of the NPT’s midlife meltdown –the dissatisfaction of non-nuclear weapon states, which have a profound feeling of regret for the slow disarmament progress. For its backers, the TPNW is likewise an endeavor to give atomic demobilization new youth and vitality. In the end, it might be workable for NPT individuals to discover a solution and settle on a middle ground in the new treaty[8]

It is ideal to move toward these difficulties in three expansive, reasonable territories: 

Measures that could help change the security condition to diminish motivating forces for states to hold, obtain, or increment their stockpile of atomic weapons; 

Institutions and procedures to reinforce restraint endeavors and manufacture trust in atomic disarmament; and 

Measures to lessen the probability of nuclear war among weapons holders during the timeframe that remaining parts before such weapons are eliminated. 

Four out of the previous nine review meetings finished up without any consensus proclamation. Over past decades, there has been an overall discernment among NPT observers that the Treaty is functioning in a bad way and in danger of getting outdated and inevitably fails, on account of expansion challenges and debates about demilitarization. 

The failure of the 2015 NPT Review Conference can be blamed on the firmness of numerous signatories, improper usage of the review process and a lack of guided leadership from any member states. Although the Treaty will continue in power, the failure in 2015 was profoundly frustrating as a squandered chance to propel the goals and objectives of the NPT, which is generally viewed as the foundation of the worldwide nuclear non- proliferation and nuclear disarmament regime.[9]

At the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference in Geneva, Three regional groups (NAM, Arab and Africa) harshly criticized Washington’s line on the WMDFZ. Hazardous developments made the circumstance inside the NPT system heat up. Along these lines, endeavors were made to utilize the review procedure as a stage to apply opportunistic political weight on certain states, including Russia. 

The system is continually advancing and adjusting to new realities, keeping up its pertinence and capacity to react sufficiently to current difficulties and dangers in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation. [10]While the NPT will endure, the validity of the system has been seriously harmed by the resoluteness of parties and hazardous new tendencies that are on the rise. These include an unchecked resurgence for the saliency of nuclear weapons in European security, misfortunes for diminishing and disposing of nuclear weapons, expanding strife both between and among the NNWS and NWS, further deteriorating trust in the NPT by the Arab states and a general loss of credibility in the nuclear disarmament objective of the NPT.

Wihout the NPT, up to 50 nations could have obtained atomic weapons at this point[11], although it was impractical to completely block the rise of new states with nuclear weapon capabilities, the settlement altogether restricted the political and financial chances. The four states with atomic weapons not under the NPT are Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea —represent a modest number than the anticipated development during the 1960s of 25-30 new nuclear states. Numerous states surrendered atomic weapons programs and joined the NPT, recognizing that the advantages of the settlement exceeded the quest for an atomic stockpile. [12]

The 2020 review meeting will occur in an especially unsure global environment because of two ongoing significant advancements:

The U.S. abandonment of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran 

The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula

(because of the June 12, 2018, meeting between the U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.)

Additionally the US has withdrawn from the ABM Treaty followed by unobstructed unilateral deployment of the US global missile defense system, and has refused to approve the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Followed by development of high-precision offensive weapons, and the possible deployment of hostile weapons in space. This has expanded quantitative and subjective lopsided characteristics in conventional weapons.[13]

Also relevant for the 2020 meeting is the strong sentiment of frustration among a few Middle Eastern states with the challenges encompassing the proposed establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass decimation in region. These issues will get featured at the 2020 Review Conference and can possibly wreck trust among states and, truth be told, invalidate all demilitarization endeavors.


[1] Williams, Sebastian Brixey. “2020: A Crucial Year for Nuclear Disarmament | UNA-UK.” Una.Org.Uk, 2020, www.una.org.uk/magazine/2019-1/2020-crucial-year-nuclear-disarmament. 

             [2] “50th Anniversary of the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).” Représentation Permanente de La France Auprès Des Organisations Internationales et Des Nations Unies à Vienne, 2019, onu-vienne.delegfrance.org/0th-anniversary-of-the-treaty-on-the-non-proliferation-of-nuclear-weapons-NPT.

[3] FORD, DR. CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY. “The P5, the ‘N5,’ and the NPT Review Conference – United States Department of State.” United States Department of State, 2019, www.state.gov/the-p5-the-n5-and-the-npt-review-conference/. 

[4] Erästö, Tytti. “Fifty Years of the NPT—Cause for Celebration or Commemoration? | SIPRI.” Sipri.Org, 23 May 2019, www.sipri.org/commentary/blog/2019/fifty-years-npt-cause-celebration-or-commemoration.

[5] MARTIN, JAMES. “Whither A Middle East WMD-Free Zone? – United States Department of State.” United States Department of State, 2019, www.state.gov/whither-a-middle-east-wmd-free-zone/.

             [6] Zachary Laub, Kali Robinson. “What Is the Status of the Iran Nuclear Agreement?” Council on Foreign Relations, 2017, www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-status-iran-nuclear-agreement.

[7] “House of Lords – Rising Nuclear Risk, Disarmament and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – Select Committee on International Relations.” Parliament.Uk, 2020, publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldintrel/338/33803.htm. 

[8] Durkalec, Jacek. “The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at Fifty: A Midlife Crisis.” NATO Review, 29 June 2018, www.nato.int/docu/review/articles/2018/06/29/the-nuclear-non-proliferation-treaty-at-fifty-a-midlife-crisis/index.html.

[9] HOUSE OF LORDS Select Committee on International Relations 7th Report of Session 2017-19 Rising Nuclear Risk, Disarmament and the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. 2019.

[10] Hudson, Kate. “50 Years of the NPT – CND.” CND, 18 Apr. 2018, cnduk.org/50-years-of-the-npt/. 

[11] The Manila Times. “50 Years of the NPT – The Manila Times.” The Manila Times, The Manila Times Publishing Corp, 22 June 2018, www.manilatimes.net/2018/06/22/opinion/analysis/50-years-of-the-npt/411001/.

[12] Twenty4. “Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – UNRCPD.” UNRCPD, 2015, unrcpd.org/wmd/the-nuclear-non-proliferation-treaty/. 

[13] CENTRE FOR SCIENCE & SECURITY STUDIES Meeting in the Middle. Dec. 2019.

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Fundamental legacy of The Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials (1945-1948)

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These – rather unfortunate – days some voices in Europe are trying, in a quite a historical fashion, to question the very fundaments of the antifascist legacy. Dangerous and highly destructive equitation attempts are on the way. Still, this legacy is what finally made the Old continent human and peaceful – a role model to admire and for the rest of us to follow.

These regrettable equitations make it worth to revisit the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, which are essential pillars of the Human Rights charter brokered right after under the OUN auspices. Consequently, a very legacy of these trials is extraordinary and far reaching. It represents a core building material of the house called Modern Europe – something that the Director of International Institute IFIMES, Dr. Zijad Becirovic repeatedly stresses in his media appearances, as one of the bold but rather are voices of the right direction and historical responsibility awareness today.

Conclusively, the importance of tribunals is hard to overstate. Its reaffirmation today is needed like never since the very end of the WWII.

Noam Chomsky once said, “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” This was not the case for Germany and Japan post-World War II. The victorious Allied powers established the first international criminal tribunals to prosecute political and military officials for war crimes and other atrocities committed during wartime. The four major Allied governments; the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union, set up the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg trials) in Nuremberg, Germany, to prosecute and punish the major war criminals of the European Axis.

The tribunal presided over a combined trial of senior Nazi political and military leaders, as well as several Nazi organizations. The less-recognized International Military Tribunal for the Far East was created (Tokyo trials) in Tokyo, Japan, following the 1946 proclamation by Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur. The tribunal presided over a series of trials of senior Japanese political and military leaders to prosecute and punish Far Eastern war criminals. The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials differed in several important aspects including their origins, compositions, and jurisdictions.

The Allied powers established the policy that international tribunals in Europe and in the Far East after World War II would focus on, most importantly, a decision on individual criminal liability for crimes against peace. The Allied governments, and specifically the United States, sought after this policy as a solid step toward organizing an international legal system for discouraging future aggressors and averting the sort of war devastation that the Axis aggression had caused. This US-enlivened policy, first presented at Nuremberg, was repeated and pursued precisely at Tokyo. Luc Reydams and Jan Wouters argued that “The Nuremberg and Tokyo Charters were drafted by a handful of statesmen from the highest echelons of government for whom an international tribunal was not a goal unto itself, but a means to a very specific end.”[1] The Tokyo Charter, necessitated that the principal charges against the defendants be crimes against peace while deeming charges on war crimes and crimes against humanity as discretionary. Therefore, a great part of the court battles at Tokyo rotated around substantiating aggressive war charges, despite the fact that proof of Japanese wartime atrocities was, truth be told, likewise exhibited.

In June 1945, the day of the signing of the United Nations Charter at the San Francisco Conference, delegations of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union, negotiated in London on the regulating principles for prosecuting war criminals. It is noteworthy that the respective heads of these delegations; Robert Jackson, David Maxwell Fyfe, General I.T. Nikitchenko, and Robert Falco later served in notable roles at the International Military Tribunal. Meeting in Potsdam to discuss the future of Germany and Europe, Truman, Churchill, and Stalin affirmed the London talks.

In August 1945, the four major Allied governments signed the 1945 London Agreement, which established the International Military Tribunal. The Charter of the International Military Tribunal was adjoined to the London Agreement and defined the tribunal’s constitution, functions, and jurisdiction[2]. One judge from each of the Allied governments formed the Nuremberg tribunal, the Allied powers also supplied a team of prosecutors. The Nuremberg Charter also provided that the International Military Tribunal had the authority to prosecute and punish persons who committed any of the following crimes: Crimes Against Peace (planning and making war), War Crimes (responsibility for crimes during war), Crimes Against Humanity (racial persecution), and Conspiracy to Commit other Crimes.

The tribunal held its opening session in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, and the trials lasted from November 1945 to October 1946. Twenty-two Nazi political and military leaders were indicted, including Hermann Goering, Rudolph Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, and Albert Speer. The tribunal found nineteen individual defendants guilty and sentenced them to punishments that ranged from death by hanging to fifteen years of imprisonment. Three defendants were found that they are not guilty, one committed suicide before the trial, and one did not stand trial due to physical or mental illness.

Unlike the International Military Tribunal, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East was not created by an international agreement, but it nonetheless emerged from international agreements to prosecute Japanese war criminals.[3] In July 1945, the United States, the United Kingdom, and China signed the Potsdam Declaration, in which they stated that “We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.[4]” and urged the Japanese government to, “proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action.[5]” The war in Europe had ended but the war with Japan was continuing at the time the Potsdam Declaration was signed. Nonetheless, the Potsdam Declaration was not signed by the Soviet Union because it did not declare war on Japan until the United States dropped the second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki.[6]

Japan surrendered on the 14th of August 1945, six days later. Officials of the US State Department leaned toward holding an intergovernmental conference to establish special international tribunals, but the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee came up with the plan to use the power of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, General Douglas MacArthur,  mindful of the experience with the London Conference where Justice Robert Jackson had enormous difficulty coming to an agreement with other delegations on the Nuremberg Charter.

At the following Moscow Conference, held in December 1945, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union with affirmation from China agreed to a basic structure to occupy Japan. General MacArthur was granted authority to “issue all orders for the implementation of the Terms of Surrender, the occupation and control of Japan, and all directives supplementary thereto.[7]

In January 1946, General Douglas MacArthur issued a special proclamation to establish the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The Charter for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East was adjoined to the proclamation. Similar to the Nuremberg Charter, it outlined the composition, functions, and jurisdiction of the tribunal. The Charter provided for General Douglas MacArthur to assign judges to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East from the countries that had signed Japan’s instrument of surrender: Australia, Canada, China, France, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as British India and the Philippines. Each of these countries also had a team of prosecutors. As with the International Military Tribunal, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East had jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for Crimes Against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes Against Humanity[8]. However, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East had jurisdiction over crimes that occurred over a greater period of time, from the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 to Japan’s surrender in 1945.

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East oversaw the prosecution of twenty-five Japanese political and military leaders. The Emperor of Japan Hirohito and other members of the imperial family were not indicted. In fact, the Allied governments allowed Emperor Hirohito to retain his position on the throne, albeit with diminished status. The trials took place from May 1946 to November 1948. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East found all defendants guilty and sentenced them to punishments ranging from death to seven years’ imprisonment.

The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials contributed significantly to the development of international criminal law and served as models for a new series of international criminal tribunals[9] that were established in the 1990s. Moreover, the reference to “crimes against peace,” “war crimes,” and “crimes against humanity” in the International Military Tribunal Charter represented the first time these terms were used and defined in an international instrument. These terms and definitions were also adopted in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, and have been depicted and expanded in a succession of international legal instruments since that time. The conclusions of the Nuremberg trials also served as models for the Genocide Convention 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and paved the way for the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

In conclusion, the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials legacy itself is extraordinary, and its importance is hard to overstate. Nuremberg and the international community’s experience with the ad hoc tribunals demonstrate that international justice doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Holding up Nuremberg to an impossible, imagined standard is neither fair nor productive.

We cannot forget that the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials and, fifty years later, the establishment of the International Criminal Court aimed to safeguard peace in all regions of the world. The achievements of these great trials in elevating justice and law over inhumanity and war give promise for a better tomorrow by paving the way to deal with international crimes. Furthermore, the international system has made huge contributions to the birth and development of modern international law.


[1]Reydams, L., Wouters, J., &Ryngaert, C. (2012). The Politics of Establishing International Criminal Tribunals. International Prosecutors, 6–80.

[2] Bard, M. G. (2002). The Nuremberg trials. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.

[3]Piccigallo, P. R. (2011). The Japanese on Trial: Allied War Crimes Operations in the East, 1945-1951. Austin: University of Texas Press.

[4]Carnegie Endowment for international peace. (n.d.). The Potsdam declaration: August 2, 1945. New York.

[5]See as in reference 2.

[6]See as in reference 1.

[7]Taulbee, J. L. (2018). War Crimes and Trials: A Primary Source Guide. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC.

[8] United Nations, International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Charter).

[9] The former Yugoslavia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994.

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When Life Imitates Art

Arlene J. Schar

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Authors: Arlene J. Schar and Dr. David Leffler*

The movie Wag the Dog was released a generation ago, one month before a presidential scandal which invited comparisons between that film and the reality of that time. Now, 23 years later, we find ourselves in the midst of yet another presidential scandal; one which has made this movie once again relevant to our times.

The premise, which hits uncomfortably close to home, is about a war fabricated to deflect attention from a president’s indiscretions. War is described as “show business” with all the trappings: slogans, nicknames, theme songs, and even merchandizing to show solidarity; all orchestrated by a media intent on projecting a party’s “alternate reality” on an unsuspecting public.

However war, whether fabricated or not, is serious business and there are casualties. Iran has recently admitted to unintentionally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error and “US adventurism” for the crash. Human error can happen, and can be especially heightened during times of war. 176 lives were lost from this particular error; how much greater would have been the loss of life if this were on a nuclear scale.

The 2014 Danish documentaryThe Man Who Saved the World tells the story of Stanislav Petrov, a former lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces and his role in preventing the 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident from leading to nuclear holocaust. Thankfully in this case human error was successfully averted. 

Human error is something that will always be present; and so we have to ask ourselves: is it worth it, to life and to our planet, to entrust such terrible war-making forces to fallible humans? The obvious answer is no, and yet we do. What can we do to change our ways, to guarantee our safety in an uncertain world?

In an ideal world, there would be no enemies, hence no war: war would be prevented by militaries before it occurs – Victory before War. There is a little known scientifically proven way to accomplish this, by using a brain-based technology known as Invincible Defense Technology (IDT). IDT incorporates non-religious advanced techniques of Transcendental Meditation (TM) which, when practiced twice a day in large groups, has the effect of raising the consciousness of all those within its field. 

Extensive peer-reviewed scientific research has repeatedly confirmed that when large groups of experts practice these advanced techniques together, a powerful field effect is generated which affects the surrounding population. This results in measurable decreases in war deaths, terrorism, and crime whenever IDT is utilized.

IDT was previously utilized in Washington D.C. over a two-month period in the summer of 1993, where 4000 meditators gathered for an experiment to lower crime. The result, as documented by an independent board of criminologists, was a 24 percent reduction in criminal violence. This profound reduction in social stress also influenced the public approval of the US president, which suddenly changed from a negative trend to a positive trend, as predicted (Reference: Social Indicators Research, 1999, 47: 153-201).

A study published in May 2019 in Studies in Asian Social Science6(2), 1-45, found that IDT implementation by students trained in the advanced TM techniques resulted in a 96% decline in sociopolitical violence in war-torn Cambodia as compared to violence in the preceding three years.

The Global Union of Scientists for Peace (GUSP) advocates IDT as a cost-effective, simple means to rapidly reduce the societal stresses held to be the underlying cause of terrorism and war.

Military and civilian groups in South America, Africa, and parts of Asia are currently field-testing this approach by creating Prevention Wings of the Military, using IDT to reduce crime, quell violence, create prosperity, prevent the rise of enemies, and create the conditions for lasting peace. 

No nation can afford another war, and no country can feel safe as long as nuclear weapons are available to be deployed, whether intentionally or by human error. It is time for all of us to consider embarking on a new course of action, utilizing IDT to raise the global consciousness so that positive solutions can be found which do not involve war.

Because our next war may well be our last.

*Dr. David Leffler served as an Associate of the Proteus Management Group at the Center for Strategic Leadership, US Army War College. Currently, he serves as the Executive Director at CAMS.

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