Wars of aggression are criminal offenses

Persons who wage a war of aggression render themselves personally liable to prosecution

The attacks by the British, French and US army units on 14 April and the presumably Israeli units on 2 May on targets in Syria were not legitimised by the UN. All persons involved in these military attacks and their superiors render themselves personally liable to prosecution. They can be accused of alleged war crimes. This is the law as it stands since 1945.

rl. It seems somewhat grotesque that just in those countries which have given rise to important impulses for the development of human rights and international law now politicians hold leading positions with views that must long be considered as been overcome. Their careless and unjustifiable handling of lives and deaths of innocent people defies any achievement of civilisation. In legal terms, they are liable to prosecution. Their actions are contrary to current international law, even if mainstream media are repeatedly whitewashing this.

Taking the “fate” into one’s own hands

As individuals, we have always lived a life co-determined by fate. In the past, the focus was on whether there was enough to eat or whether one stayed healthy. In addition, there was “fate” in the form of wars. But in all areas of life, people find and found ways to improve their lives, to better protect themselves and to take precautions.

Restraining the trouble of war

War is one of the worst troubles – because it is not being caused by natural forces but by human beings. After having restrained the right of the fist and the feuds by public peace and since internal peace had been restored, war was no longer accepted as fate. International law has been developed in order to restrict this arbitrariness. Piece by piece, step by step, over centuries. Therewith, our consciousness has also been changed. War is no longer perceived as a “stroke of fate”, but rather as a punishable act which, since the Nuremberg Trials (1945/1946), can lead to life sentence, at that time even to death.
Hitler’s wars of aggression were no longer accepted as a “state’s right to war” (ius ad bellum). Even if the smell of “victors‘ justice” clings to the criminal procedures, they contributed to the fact, that a consensus was emerging that war of aggression or similar acts of war are crimes because they are implicating the intentional and negligent death of innocent people. And even if war-mongering politicians defend themselves by spurious arguments against being convicted, it is however foreseeable that their murderous activity will eventually have civilian consequences.

In 40 years over 80 million killed by war

The Nuremberg Trials and the founding of the UN were consequences of the two World Wars: of the First World War, 1914–1918, with 17 million dead and shortly afterwards the Second World War, 1939–1945, with about 60 million fatalities. Added to this was the incredible suffering of millions and millions of widows, orphans, people traumatised by war, war-disabled, homeless, bombed out, hungry people, etc.

War as a crime

In his opening speech on 21 November 1945, the chief prosecutor, the US-American lawyer Robert H. Jackson, summed up the aim of the Nuremberg Trials as follows: “That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason. […] This inquest represents the practical effort of four of the most mighty of nations, with the support of 14 more, to utilise international law to meet the greatest menace of our times – aggressive war. The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.”1 Thus Jackson expressed the change in the general understanding of war: War as a crime punishable in a civil court.

The Kellogg-Briand-Pact

The Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter refer to the efforts of the French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand and the US Secretary of State Frank Billings Kellogg to declare wars of aggression to be contrary to international law and to resolve conflicts peacefully in the future. The Kellogg-Briand-Pact was signed in 1928 by at first eleven nations. It is an essential step towards preventing murders through acts of war.

The United Nations Charter

Since 1945, the United Nations Charter has formed the basis for international relations. It is the founding treaty of the UN. Its universal objectives and principles form the constitution of the international community, professed by now by 193 member states. The Charter was signed in San Francisco on 26 June 1945 by 50 founding states and came into force on 24 October 1945. To bring it to mind, parts of the preamble and of the first two chapters are printed in the following.    •

1     The International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg 1945/46. Speeches of the main accusers. Ed.: “Nürnberger Menschenrechtszentrum” (Nuremberg Human Rights Center), 2015, p. 61

(Translation Current Concerns)

United Nations Charter (Extract)

Preamble

We the peoples of the United Nations  determined

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

and for these ends

  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

Have resolved to combine efforts to accomplish these aims […]

CHAPTER I

purposes and principles

Article 1

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen     universal peace; […]

Article 2

The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

  1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
  2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
  3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
  4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. […]