Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Heller on the Nuremberg Military Tribunals

Last week, I finally caught up with the documentary on the International Military Tribunal, “Nuremberg: Its Lessons for Today,” at the Traverse City Film Festival. Now, on cue, comes word of the publication of a book on the proceedings that usually languish in that tribunal’s shadow. It is The Nuremberg Military Tribunals and the Origins of International Criminal Law, by Kevin Jon Heller, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Law School. Here is the publisher’s description:
This book provides the first comprehensive legal analysis of the twelve war crimes trials held in the American zone of occupation between 1946 and 1949, collectively known as the Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMTs). The judgments the NMTs produced have played a critical role in the development of international criminal law, particularly in terms of how courts currently understand war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. The trials are also of tremendous historical importance, because they provide a far more comprehensive picture of Nazi atrocities than their more famous predecessor, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (IMT). The IMT focused exclusively on the 'major war criminals'-the Goerings, the Hesses, the Speers. The NMTs, by contrast, prosecuted doctors, lawyers, judges, industrialists, bankers-the private citizens and lower-level functionaries whose willingness to take part in the destruction of millions of innocents manifested what Hannah Arendt famously called 'the banality of evil'.

The book is divided into five sections. The first section traces the evolution of the twelve NMT trials. The second section discusses the law, procedure, and rules of evidence applied by the tribunals, with a focu

s on the important differences between Law No. 10 and the Nuremberg Charter. The third section, the heart of the book, provides a systematic analysis of the tribunals' jurisprudence. It covers Law No. 10's core crimes-crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity-as well as the crimes of conspiracy and membership in a criminal organization. The fourth section then examines the modes of participation and defenses that the tribunals recognized. The final section deals with sentencing, the aftermath of the trials, and their historical legacy.

1 comment:

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

I very much look forward to reading Kevin’s book.

One should also consult Guénaël Mettraux, ed. Perspectives on the Nuremberg Trial (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). To place this in the proverbial bigger picture as it relates to the development of (international and criminal) law generally, including an appreciation of the different role played by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (commonly referred to as the Tokyo Tribunal), see Kenneth S. Gallant’s The Principle of Legality in International and Comparative Criminal Law (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009). (Incidentally, Kevin has also recently co-edited a ‘handbook’ on comparative criminal law.)