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The Legacy of Nuremberg  |   Imposing Justice from the Hague  |   Rwanda's Revolutionary Justice


Key Terms

Ahmici — Village located central Bosnia which had a mixed population of Roman Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians. On April 16, 1993, a band of armed Croats murdered over one hundred of their Muslim neighbors, including 33 women and children. According to British peacekeepers who entered the village shortly after the massacre, all 172 of the homes of Muslim villagers had been burned down, while no Croat homes had been burned. This episode surprised many because Croats and Muslims were normally allied against a common enemy, the Bosnian Serbs. Five Bosnian Croats: Dario Kordic, Tihomir Blaksic, Mirjan, Zoran and Vlatko Kupreskic were convicted of crimes against humanity for what happened in Ahmici.

Arusha Accords — Pact signed in 1993 to provide for power sharing between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda.

Berlin Airlift — Post-war Germany was divided into separate zones, one each controlled by the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. The city of Berlin, although located in the eastern Soviet half, was also divided into four sectors --West Berlin was occupied the Americans, French and British while East Berlin was occupied by Soviets. In June 1948, the Soviet Union attempted to gain control all of Berlin by cutting surface traffic to and from the city of West Berlin. The United States, Great Britain and France responded with over fourteen months of daily airlifts of food and supplies into Berlin.

Crimes against humanity — According to the International Criminal Court, crimes against humanity include crimes such as the extermination of civilians, enslavement, torture, rape, forced pregnancy, deportation, persecution on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds, and enforced disappearances—but only when they are part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population. The "widespread or systematic" qualification for crimes against humanity is very important, as it provides a higher threshold and differentiates it from random acts of violence—such as rape, murder, or even torture—that could be carried out, perhaps even by soldiers in uniform, but which may not actually qualify as crimes against humanity.

The Doctors' Trial — In the period from December 9,1946 to August 20, 1947 the American prosecution team tried twenty-three German physicians and administrators for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The doctors had participated in the Nazi "Euthanasia Program" under which persons deemed "unworthy of life" (the mentally ill, mentally retarded, or physically disabled) were executed. In addition, many of the doctors had conducted experiments on thousands concentration camp prisoners without their consent, in most cases killing or maiming the victim. Seven of the doctors were executed, nine others received prison sentences. Eight were acquitted.

Einsatzgruppen — "Mobile killing units" of the Nazi Security Police and SS Security Service, which were charged with liquidating all political enemies of the Reich. The Einsatzgruppen accompanied the German Army into the Soviet Union, where they rounded up, shot and buried approximately 1.25 million Jews and other Soviet nationals. At their trial, which lasted from September 29, 1947 to April 9, 1948, all 24 of the Einsatzgruppen defendants were found guilty.

Ethnic Cleansing — Literal translation of the Serbo-Croatian/Croato-Serbian term 'etnicko ciscenje', which was used in mass media reports as early as 1981. The term derived its current meaning during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, probably as part of military vocabulary. It was most often used in the final phase of combat, to describe taking total control of the conquered territory. According to the U.S. State Department, ethnic cleansing generally entails the systematic and forced removal of members of an ethnic group from their communities to change the ethnic composition of a region. It includes:

  1. Forced expulsions
  2. Looting and Burning
  3. Detentions
  4. Summary Execution
  5. Rape
  6. Violations of Medical Neutrality
  7. Identity Cleansing

Benjamin B. Ferencz — American prosecutor at some of the subsequent Nuremberg war crimes trials including the Krupp trial. Ferencz was Chief Prosecutor for the Einsatzgruppen trial. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he served in the Army during WWII and helped liberate Buchenwald, Mauthausen, and Dachau. Author of numerous books on international justice and law, Mr. Ferencz is an Adjunct Professor of International Law at Pace University and founder of the Pace Peace Center, and a Trustee of The Center For United Nations Reform Education. An outspoken advocate for the International Criminal Court, he has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to lobbying for its establishment.

Gacaca — Kinyarwandan word meaning "justice on the grass." It refers to the traditional Rwandan practice in which trial occurs in a community gathering, the focus of which is on reconciliation of the community. On October 13, 2000, the Rwandan National Assembly passed a law establishing large scale "gacaca courts" to process the tens of thousands of cases of those accused of participating in the 1994 genocide.

Genocide — According to the International Criminal Court, genocide is defined as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

Hutu — Majority ethnic group in Rwanda.

Hutu Power — Ethnic solidarity movement springing from the social revolution of 1959 which brought the Hutu majority to power in Rwanda.

HVO — The Croatian Defense Council was the executive and military leadership of The Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna/ Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna (HZ H-B/HR H-B) which had proclaimed its independence as a separate unit within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Among its goals was that of securing the right of the Croatian people to self-determination and secession.

Interahamwe — Hutu militia responsible for much of the killing in 1994 genocide. According to the ICTR, the term Interahamwe derives from two words intera and hamwe. Intera comes from the verb 'gutera' which can mean to attack, to work or to kill. 'Hamwe' means together. Therefore Interahamwe could mean to attack or to work together, and, depending on the context, to kill together. The Interahamwe were a youth movement. During the war, the term also covered anyone who had anti-Tutsi tendencies, irrespective of their political background.

International Criminal Court — The United Nations first recognized the need to establish an international criminal court to prosecute crimes such as genocide in 1948. However, no action was taken until 1994, when the wars in the former Yugoslavia prompted the UN to again consider the topic. In Rome, in July 1998, 120 members of the United Nations adopted a treaty to establish—for the first time in the history of the world —a permanent international criminal court. After gathering the required sixty signatures, the ICC officially came into force on July 1, 2002.

On their Web site, the UN gives several reasons for the establishment of the ICC:

  • To achieve justice for all
  • To end impunity
  • To help end conflicts
  • To remedy the deficiencies of ad hoc tribunals
  • To take over when national criminal justice institutions are unwilling or unable to act
  • To deter future war criminals

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) — (located in Arusha, Tanzania). Created by the UN Security Council in November 1994 for the prosecution of persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda, as well as in the territory of neighboring countries between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1994.

International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia (ICTY) — Located at The Hague (Netherlands) was established by the UN Security Council in 1993 in the face of serious violations of international humanitarian law (including crimes against humanity and breaches in the Geneva Convention) committed in the former Yugoslavia. It's stated objectives are: to bring to justice persons allegedly responsible for violations of international humanitarian law; to render justice to the victims; to deter further crimes and to contribute to the restoration of peace by promoting reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia.

General Robert H. Jackson — U.S. Supreme Court Justice, who took a leave of absence to become Chief Prosecutor of the first trial of 22 Nazi leaders, (including Goering and Hess) in Nuremberg. (This trial is often referred to as the IMT or International Military Tribunal.) As U.S. Attorney General, Jackson helped create Roosevelt's 1940 Lend-Lease Act under which the United States was able to give Great Britain destroyer ships in exchange for a 99-year lease of British military bases in the Western Hemisphere.

The Judges' Trial — (the Hollywood film Justice at Nuremberg was based on this trial). This trial, also known as the Justice Trial prosecuted sixteen members of the Nazi court system and Ministry of Justice. American prosecutors sought to demonstrate a pattern of judicial and prosecutorial support for Nazi programs of persecution, sterilization, extermination, and other gross violations of human rights. It raised the issue of what responsibility judges might have for enforcing grossly unjust — but arguably binding — laws. In order to prove an individual defendant guilty, prosecutors had to show that the defendant consciously furthered human rights abuses. In this case, ten of the defendants were convicted, four were acquitted, one died and another was a mistrial.

Lasva River Valley — Region of Bosnia-Herzegovina where Ahmici is located. Also the Lasva River Valley Indictments—is the commonly known name of a series of five ICTY trials of Bosnian Croats accused of war crimes in that region.

Nuremberg — A city in southern Germany and the site of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) conducted by the victorious Allies (the U.S., France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union) to prosecute 22 high ranking Nazis for crimes against peace; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. It began in November, 1945, and lasted 11 months. Of the 21 defendants in custody (the 22nd, Martin Bormann, was indicted in absentia), 11 were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and the rest received prison terms.

Ponga Stick — Local Kinyarwandan terms for a kind of machete or big knife.

RPF — Rwandese Patriotic Front, an armed rebel movement composed mainly of Rwandan Tutsis who had lived in exile in surrounding countries since the 1960s. Their objective was to regain political control in Rwanda.

RTLM — Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines, the voice of the genocide, reportedly ordered the massacre of ethnic Tutsis.

Subsequent Nuremberg trials — Following the IMT, the American authorities in Germany (the American Zone) conducted trials of other Nazis suspected of committing war crimes. Those trials included: The Doctors' Case; The Milch Case; The Justice Case; The Pohl Case; The Flick Case; The IG Farben Case; The Hostage Case; The R.U.S.H.A. Case; The Einsatzgruppen Case; The Krupp Case and The Ministries Case. Of the 164 defendants, 134 were found guilty of at least one charge, three died before the end of the trials (two by suicide) and 34 were acquitted.

Brig. General Telford Taylor — After serving in the U.S. Army Intelligence Unit during WWII, Taylor became a prosecutor at Nuremberg and helped write the rules for prosecuting Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess and other Nazis. In 1946, Taylor succeeded Gen. Robert Jackson as Chief Prosecutor, and in that role prosecuted the Doctors' Trial, the Krupp Trial and the Justice Trial. In all, he secured the indictment of over one hundred Nazis. During the 1950s, Taylor was an outspoken critic of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Taylor, a professor of law at Columbia University, continued to be a vocal watchdog of American military conduct throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He died in 1998.

Tutsi — Minority ethnic group in Rwanda. Historically, Rwanda's ruling class.

UNAMIR — United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda.

Victor's Justice — The use of military tribunals or other post-war court proceedings to selectively apply criminal standards against individuals on the losing side of a conflict, while overlooking war crimes committed by members of the winning side.

War crimes — According to the International Criminal Court, war crimes include grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other serious violations of the laws and customs that can be applied in international armed conflict, and in armed conflict "not of an international character", as listed in the Statute, when they are committed as part of a plan or policy or on a large scale. These may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment
  2. Collective punishments
  3. Taking of hostages
  4. Acts of terrorism
  5. Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault
  6. Pillage
  7. The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples
  8. Threats to commit any of the foregoing acts.