From Nuremberg to The Haag Von Nürnberg nach Den Haag International Criminal Law 1945–2011 | From Nuremberg to The Hague

International Criminal Law 1945–2011

08.08.1945: London Statute of the IMT, the legal basis of the proceedings at the IMT.

19.01.1946: The IMTFE Statute (Tokyo Statute), modeled on the principles of the London Statuate, sets the ground for the trial against the principal war criminals of Japan.

18.05.1946: First post-war session of the „International Association of Penal Law“ in the IMT court room at Nuremberg. Several judges of the IMT were members of this association. For a symbolic restart of international criminal law, the heads of the association presided over the session from the IMT judges’ bench. Among the participants were the IMT judges Biddle, Birkett, Donnedieu de Vabres, Herzog, Falco and Nikitchenko, as well as the British prosecutor David Maxwell-Fyfe and, representing Robert Jackson, colonel Egbert.

01.10.1946: The IMT pronounces its judgment, in strict accordance with the London Statute.

11.12.1946: Resolution 95 (I) of the UN General Assembly confirms the principles set by the Statute and the judgment of the IMT, declaring them as general principles of International Law. The resolution calls for the codification of crimes against the peace and security of mankind within an international penal code.

09.12.1948: The General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, thus declaring one of the Nuremberg crimes as an international crime. The Convention foresees an international court for the crime of genocide which was never created.

10.12.1948: Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Though only of declaratory character, it be-comes a very effective instrument.

29.07.1950: The Nuremberg Principles are drafted by the International Law Commission, in accordance with the 1946 Resolution 95 (I), without further legal development. The ILC continues its work on an international penal code for a future international criminal court.

24.11.1950: Vespasien V. Pella, president of the “International Association of Penal Law”, directs a Memorandum to the International Law Commission. In this document he makes a series of proposals for an international criminal court and a modern penal code that would improve and develop the Nuremberg Principles. The Memorandum is not adopted by the Commission.

1954: A new ILC draft for the international penal code establishes “Crimes against Humanity” for the first time as a category by itself, independent from any war time situation.

26.11.1968: The General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity by which the state parties declare that no statutory limitation shall apply to war crimes and “crimes against humanity whether committed in time of war or in time of peace as they are defined in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Nurnberg.”

30.11.1973: The General Assembly adopts the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Its Art. 1 declares Apartheid a crime against humanity, thus adding a new type of crime to the category of crimes against humanity.

1989: Upon the initiative of Trinidad and Tobago, the UN International Law Commission, after a long period of stagnation, begins working again on the international penal code.

25.05.1993: Establishment of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 (ICTY), by Resolution 827. Like the IMT, the ICTY is an ad-hoc tribunal. But unlike Nuremberg, it is a UN organ and works on the basis of a well elaborated legal statute (which includes the Nuremberg Principles). The crimes to be tried before the ICTY are war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

22.07.1994: The International Law Commission presents its draft of the statute of a permanent international criminal court. Its competence would refer to the Nuremberg crimes as well as genocide and other international crimes. The General Assembly does not adopt the draft but refers it to a commission.

08.11.1994: Establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), by UN Security Resolution 955, to judge persons responsible for the crimes committed in Rwanda during 1994. Like the IMT and the ICTY, the ICTR is an ad-hoc tribunal.

1995: The UN General Assembly forms a Preparatory Committee for the establishment of an international criminal court. It prepares a draft that after three years is presented to an international diplomatic conference.

05.07.1996: The ILC finally adopts its Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind. It never enters into force but is an important contribution for the drafting process of the statute of the ICC.

17.07.1998: In Rome, a diplomatic conference convoked by the UN adopts the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). 120 states vote in favour, 7 against the statute, 21 abstain. The ICC is not a UN organ but a body of the treaty adopted in Rome by the parties of this treaty.

01.07.2002: The ICC Statute enters into force after the ratification of the treaty by the 60th member. However, large countries like the USA, China, Russia and India remain absent. The jurisdiction ratione temporis of the ICC begins this day or, respectively, after the ratification of states that become a party to the treaty after that date. The ICC’s jurisdiction ratione materiae comprends the Nuremberg crimes and genocide. The crime of aggression is part of the statute but the court cannot exercise its jurisdiction on this count until the statute provides a definition of this crime.

11.03.2003: The ICC starts its work. In a solemn ceremony in The Hague the 18 judges are sworn in, in presence of UN General Secretary Kofi Annan. Outside of the building, former American Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz, now 82 years old, hoists the US flag, in a symbolic protest against the refusal of the United States to become a party to the ICC.

18.06.2006: Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese militia leader, is the first indictee to be held in the court’s prison in The Hague. Other investigations have begun against persons from Uganda, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

26.01.2009: While by this date 108 states have ratified the Rome Treaty, the first trial is opened against Thomas Lubanga. European and Latin American states have taken a lead in the ratification process.

04.03.2009: The ICC brings criminal charges against the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir and issues a warrant of arrest against him. This is the first time that an international court exercises jurisdiction against an acting head of state. Al-Bashir is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

31.03.2010: After examination by the pre-trial chamber, the prosecutor opens an official inquiry into possible crimes against humanity committed in connection with the violence after the 2007 elections in Kenya.

30.06.2010: The first Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala adopted, by consensus of its 111 member states, the inclusion of a definition of the crime of aggression and its jurisdictional conditions, albeit under a number of restrictions. This decision will not enter into force until 2017.

26.02.2011: The UN Security Council refers the situation in Libya to the ICC, calling for investigation for possible crimes committed by Muammar al-Gaddafi and his collaborators. On June 27, the ICC issues warrants of arrest for Muammar al-Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi for crimes against humanity.

14.02.2012 / 10.07.2012: In its first trial the ICC sentences former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga to 14 years imprisonment for the conscription, enlistment and use of children as soldiers.