Authors: Punsara Amarasinghe and Anastasia Glazova*
Exactly one hundred and four years ago world witnessed the first systematic genocide when the international law had adopted no specific legal remedies to prevent such atrocities or decades before Raphael Lemkin coined the term “Genocide” in 1944. The calamity that befell Armenian people lived in Ottoman Empire have been widely discussed as one of the macabre events recorded in human history as it took more hundred thousands of Armenian lives, yet up to this day Turkish government has denied the events took place in Turkey against Armenians. The facts which paved the path to slaughter Armenians were filled with the rise and of nationalism in Ottoman Turkey and also it fair to assume Armenian people were caught between the two belligerent powers of Russia and Turkey and later took the pretext to considering some Armenians were loyal to Russia as a good strategy to carry out their massacre. The Armenian genocide was executed under the chief motive of eliminating the whole Armenian population from Ottoman territory.
The atrocities against Armenians were given legitimacy as Turkish government promulgated temporary law of deportation and temporary law of expropriation and confiscation, which granted a legitimate way to get rid of Armenian population and also to eventually to acquire their properties as well. After the defeat of Ottoman empire and central European powers in First World War the actions taken by allies in 1919 Paris peace conference against the perpetrators of Armenian genocide. The decision of conducting a trial for the perpetrators was culminated in Treaty of Severes as its article 230 states that the Ottoman Empire “hand over to the Allied Powers the persons whose surrender may be required by the latter as being responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Ottoman Empire on August 1, 1914.” However the allied attempt to establish a proper trial on Armenian genocide was faded into oblivion as the prosecutors found no solid evidence to reprimand Ottoman officers involved in Armenian genocide and eventually most of them were walked free without being charged.
Most interesting question pertinent to Armenian genocide remaining today is the ambiguity of assessing the planned intention of Ottoman government to exterminate Armenian population systematically. According to Article 2 of Genocide Convention adopted in 1948, the element of genocide can be proven when such acts were committed against national, ethnical, racial or religious group” with “the intent to destroy [it] in whole or in part”. The common rhetorical quibble which has been often used to cover the Turkish responsibility over Armenian genocide is that the genocide convention was not existing at that time when those heinous crimes were occurred. However the prohibition of international law is in inherent part of peremptory norms ( JusCogens ) in international law which binds all the states to eliminate such crimes and bring the perpetrators before justice. Regarding the state responsibility of Turkey as the liable party who took the initiatives of obliterating Armenian population from its territory, it is interesting to observe that Ottoman rule was ceased to exist after their defeat of First World War and the emergence of Kemal Ataturk’s secular Turkey denied accepting the responsibilities for such acts occurred in the past and pay compensation for the victim unlike how Germany felt humiliated on their Nazi past after Second World War and adopted a policy of providing compensation for the descendants. Instead of moving to embrace the guiltiness of the past, the republic of Turkey seemed to have negated the factual reality from its masses through various methods.
As an example when the whole Armenian diaspora around the world commemorated 103rd anniversary last year, Turkish president declared bringing genocide charges against Turkey is akin to “blackmailing” his country. Moreover the creating a public discourse about their notorious imperial past of Ottoman Empire has been completely trampled by legal apparatus of Turkey as Article 301 of current penal code of Turkey has penalized criticizing Turkishness as a criminal offence. Many journalists and activists including Turkish bestselling novelist Orhan Pamuk were reprimanded in Turkey under this outrageous section of Turkish penal code, because they had audacity to condemn the atrocities took place in the past against Armenians lived in Ottoman territory.
Tracing the state responsibility of modern Turkey for the acts occurred in the past from international law perspective drives modern day scholars for a labyrinth to seek the connectivity of the past and state responsibility. Legal historian Vahagn Avedian has suggested in his article titled State Identity, Continuity, and Responsibility: The Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey and the Armenian Genocide” the responsibility lies in modern Turkey as it is the continuation of Ottoman Empire and his contention is based on the fact that only some minor changes happened when the republic replaced the empire. He shows many of those accused of war crimes and illegal confiscations were elevated to high positions in the republic and almost none was convicted for the committed internationally wrongful acts.
The lack of solid evidence and constant denial of Turkish government in both past and present has always hindered the threshold of creating genocide charges for the brutal acts committed against Armenian population, nevertheless the evidence left by some witnesses show the exact intent of Ottoman regime to eradicate Armenian community from their empire. As an example the memories written by American consulate in Harput Mr. Leslie Davis provide solid evidence of the horrendous massacre of Armenian civilians in the province of Harput. When it comes to tracing the intentional element of carrying out such heinous acts it is clear that orders stemmed from the authorities of Ottoman Empire to preserve its purity and the background before the events took place demonstrate the fact that Ottomans possessed the clear intention getting rid of its Armenian community. Since the individual responsibility lies in state ambiguity to prove today as all the responsible persons for Armenian genocide are dead and gone, the concern of state responsibility can be an ideal tool to use against Turkey from international legal perspective. In the context of bringing Turkey before justice the role of European Court of Human Rights can be taken as an ideal example as both Turkey and present day Armenia are members of the court. However due to the total absence of cases for the Armenian Genocide, the ECHR could draw arguments from other supranational courts where it is encouraged to foment dialogue between the courts’ judges. Indeed, even functionally specialized tribunals remain part of an integrated and interconnected system and have recourse to the same basic sources of international law.
All in all the attempt of proving Turkey’s responsibility international law by using available remedies through ICJ, ECHR of International Criminal Court seem to be twilight as I pointed above due to lack of clear evidence and other anomalies, yet the justice for the victims only can be rendered by going for a mutual reconciliation between modern state of Armenia and Republic of Turkey. The current camaraderie between France and German has shown us the one bitter enemies can become closer friends through good actions which eventually heal the memories of past and as it has been more than 100 years since this heinous crimes took place against Armenian people, Turkey should at least declare a note of apology for the victims and I believe such an act coming from the state whish was responsible for the actions would make more sense than grappling with vague circumstances under international law to prove justice.
*Anastasia Glazova is a PhD researcher in Faculty of Law in Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Her research areas include international law, international maritime law, law of the sea and international human rights law. She can be reached at angla.1892[at]mail.ru
Fundamental legacy of The Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials (1945-1948)
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.” 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. 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. 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.” 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.” 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.
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.”
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. 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 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.
Reydams, L., Wouters, J., &Ryngaert, C. (2012). The Politics of Establishing International Criminal Tribunals. International Prosecutors, 6–80.
 Bard, M. G. (2002). The Nuremberg trials. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.
Piccigallo, P. R. (2011). The Japanese on Trial: Allied War Crimes Operations in the East, 1945-1951. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Carnegie Endowment for international peace. (n.d.). The Potsdam declaration: August 2, 1945. New York.
See as in reference 2.
See as in reference 1.
Taulbee, J. L. (2018). War Crimes and Trials: A Primary Source Guide. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC.
 United Nations, International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Charter).
 The former Yugoslavia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994.
When Life Imitates Art
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 Science, 6(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.
Applicability of international law for justice: Remarks on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752
Authors: Punsara Amarasinghe and Esshan Jayawardane*
The pandemonium erupted following Soleimani’s death seems to have encircled the embattled regime in Iran after admitting that Ukrainian flight was shot down by their force with 176 people on board. The protestors who chanted death to America at Soleimani’s funeral changed their tune when they realized the government they reverently supporting has lied to them about the cause of the air crash as a technical failure. A week after the tragedy Teheran has openly claimed that air crash was a result of human failure as a missile operator misidentified it as a cruise missile after Iran launched missiles to the US airbases in Iraq. In the meantime, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s persistent remarks on demanding justice for the victims has caused an uproar amid the tension. Indeed, 74 victims on board happened to be Canadians albeit they were either ethic Iranians or with Iranian origin. This situation raises some concern whether Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the UK seek some judicial remedy under international law for Iran’s act of shooting down an aircraft which carried its citizens. This situation is a sheer reminder of what exactly happened in 1988 when Iranian flight was shot down by the US Vincennes, a missile cruiser of the US navy in the Persian Gulf. In the situation in 1988, Iran filed a case against the US in International Court of Justice and within the time limit fixed for the filing of its counter memorial, the USA raised preliminary objections to the jurisdictions of the court. However, both parties later entered into an agreement in a full and final settlement resulting in the closure of the case in the ICJ.
From a vantage point, the ability for Canada or other affected states to apply international law to seek justice should be mainly understood by examining the current international law measurements covering the civil aircraft. The Convention on International Civil Aviation16 (Chicago Convention) is the core document regulating international civil aviation. Its governing body, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is responsible, amongst other duties, for minimum standards of flight safety. Iran has signed and ratified the convention, hence remained legally obliged to uphold it. It’s Article 3 has explicitly stated “The contracting states must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft and in that case of interception, the lives of persons on board and safety of aircraft must not be endangered. Secondly, the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of unlawful Acts against the safety of Civil Aviation remains the other necessary black letter legal mechanism available in international law.
Also, the UN charter being the zenith of international law has framed certain conditions regarding the use of force. In particular, its Article 2 (4) requires all member states shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” It is assumed that the use of force against a foreign civil aircraft, even within the boundaries of a nation state triggers international law in that it constitutes a “use of force” within the meaning of the above rule. In the case of the Iranian shot down of the Ukrainian flight, the issue of “Self-defense “arises as it occurred amid an escalating situation followed by Solemani’s assassination by the US Drones and Iranians military response to it. If Canada triggers international law to seek justice for its lost citizens, Iran is likely to rely on the Article 51 of the United Nations Charter which verifies member states inherent rights for the self-defense. However, it is important to consider that yardstick behind the applicability of “Self Defense “is rather subtle. Especially, the justification of applying “self-defense “has been generally referred to the situation of “imminent threat “. Even before the creation of Article 51 in the UN Charter, the scope of imminent threat was discussed as a complex issue in the early development in the 19th century international law. As an example in the Famous Caroline test affair between the USA and Great Britain, American statesman Daniel Webster described the imminent threat as “instant, overwhelming and leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation”. Given the scenario that flight was shot down just hours after Iran attacked two US bases in Iraq, the salient contention that one can raise is that Iranian missile operator’s deadly mistake of misidentifying the Ukrainian plane as an American missile ended up in a calamity. Nevertheless, there was no clear claim to build an imminent threat from a civil aircraft. Yet, the claim made by Teheran has affirmed shooting down of the flight was a result of human error or otherwise a mistake. The availability of remedial solutions for mistakes in international law are tiny and depends on the specific circumstances. In this particular situation liability of Iran appears to be more severe than the claim it yields by justifying the act as a result of a grave mistake. The initial Iranian attempt to obstruct the investigation in the aftermath of the air crash and its deceptive act of portraying the air crash as a result of a technical error intensifies the culpability. More importantly plane would have never met its ill fate if Iranian authorities closed down its air space on that day knowing well that hostilities with the US can easily escalate following their missile strikes. This situation upsets Iranian claim of a sincere mistake caused the tragedy as the given factors aptly show even if the mistake was an honest one, the acts Iranian state which paves the path to the catastrophic event were not reasonable.
All in all, the most less troublesome answer that can help Iran before any possible international law claim by Canada, Ukraine, Sweden or Great Britain is to admit the liability as a state and frame the reparations for those lost lives of individuals. The act of conducting a fair investigation, providing reparation and more importantly the unconditional apology as a state can avert Iran from further diplomatic isolation as a pariah state.
*Eshan Jayawardane is an independent researcher resides is Napiers, New Zealand. He completed his BA in Delhi University and completed his MA in International Relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. He can be reached at eshan.jayawardena[at]gmail.com.
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