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Monday, April 9, 2012

Ben Ferencz

I usually don’t engage in promotion for other people’s websites, but this one deserves mention.  Former Nuremberg Prosecutor Ben Ferencz has a personal website which is quite impressive.  Ferencz served as chief prosecutor for the United States in the famous Einsatzgruppen case, one of the 12 “subsequent” Nuremberg cases prosecuted by the Americans under the direction of General Telford Taylor.  Ferencz obtained convictions against all 22 Nazi defendants.

In recent years, Ferencz has focused his efforts on the criminalization of aggression.  At Nuremberg, aggression (or crimes against the peace) was described as the supreme international crime because it “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”  However, aggression was never prosecuted by an international tribunal again after Nuremberg.  Its exclusion from the Rome Statute of the ICC was a particularly frustrating development for Ferencz.

The adoption of the aggression amendments to the Rome Statute, negotiated in Kampala, Uganda, in 2010, represented a major vindication for Ben and his life’s work.  The crime of aggression will now be within the jurisdiction of the world’s first permanent international criminal court.  This achievement is at least partly a result of Ben’s tireless advocacy on the issue.

Ferencz was 27 at the time of the Einsatzgruppen trial; he is now 93 and still going strong.  He keeps up a vigorous schedule of conferences and lectures, and still publishes widely.  His website includes the text of his speeches, videos of public appearances, links to his scholarly publications, and much more. Just a few weeks ago he had a letter to the Wall Street Journal responding to negative comments that John Yoo made about the ICC.

I particularly recommend a video of Ferencz delivering remarks as part of the prosecution’s closing statements at the end of the recent Lubanga trial at the ICC -- the first trial to be completed by the new international court.  The video is from August 2011 and Ferencz places the crime of using child soldiers in its historical context and he explains the development of international criminal law.  No one else could have given that speech.

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