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Publication Title

Washington University Global Studies Law Review

Abstract

There is no doubt: Whitney was one of the foremost pioneers of the Nuremberg Trials—and I am convinced not only of their continuing historic significance, but also of their significance for the world of today and tomorrow. Today, we realize, and it is obvious, that these trials were based on a breakthrough, on some kind of intellectual and legal quantum leap of enormous significance. Notwithstanding the involvement of the three other victorious powers, Nuremberg is in essence an American invention, a contribution of men like Justice Robert H. Jackson, Telford Taylor, Whitney Harris, Benjamin Ferencz and others. Their ideas and actions made a difference; they provided lasting international awareness for the necessity of the rule of law in international relations. All these innovative ideas, the contribution of the Nuremberg Trials and of the underlying principles, have had a decisive and on-going influence on international law. Thus, without Nuremberg, there would have been no ad hoc tribunals; without Nuremberg there would have been no International Criminal Court. There would be no recognition for the principle that is universally recognized today: nobody is above the law. There can be no impunity for grave crimes, which concern the international community as a whole, regardless of the rank or nationality of the perpetrators in question. And, above all, Nuremberg achieved, for the first time, clarity about a fundamental principle: aggressive war, which had been a national right throughout history, should henceforth be punished as an international crime.

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