For Stronger International Criminal Law: Opening a Vault of Precedents - the 17 Nation UN War Crimes Commission of 1943-1948
21 May 2012
B102, Brunei Gallery Building, SOAS
Speaker: Dan Plesch, Director, SOAS Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy and author of ‘America, Hitler and the UN’
Chair: Lutz Oette, School of Law, SOAS
Dr Plesch’s presentation follows his recent guest lecture for the ICC in the Hague. The UNWCC is virtually unknown today although HMSO published its history in 1948 and the UN houses its archives. Plesch is the author of ‘America, Hitler and the UN’ (I.B.Tauris 2011) that provides the backstory on the UNWCC. The UNWCC work provides:
- Precedent: The records of at least 2,000 trials conducted in parallel to those at Nurumberg and Tokyo have yet to be incorporated into analysis of ICL. The cases and charges against some 8,000 other individuals include documents on cases of environmental destruction, cultural crimes, de-nationisation, wars of aggression and sexual violence.
- Definition of Law: The Commission’s meeting minutes and reports reveal extensive legal debate on the nature and validity of international crimes prior to and after the London Charter.
- Broad national engagement: Members states of the Commission included China, India, the US and many European and Commonwealth States. US involvement and periodic leadership is important in discussions of US involvement today. The UNWCC was considered part of a broader UN effort at peacemaking and conflict prevention.
- Legal Organisation: The practice of states of organising a UN Commission to determine law, detect and pursue criminals, provide prima facie judgements of cases submitted by national tribunals and receive law reports of trial outcomes is pertinent to today’s debates.