Crimes of War: A Legal, Political-Documentary, and Psychological Inquiry into the Responsibility of Leaders, Citizens, and Soldiers for Criminal Acts in Wars

By Richard A. Falk; Gabriel Kolko et al. | Go to book overview

1. STANDARDS AND NORMS

International law has evolved over several centuries a set of minimum rules governing the conduct of warfare. These rules were accepted as limits upon the concept of military necessity and were enforced by military commissions against violators. More recently, actually since the efforts at the end of World War I to prosecute Kaiser Wilhelm as a war criminal, there has been a growing set of demands that political leaders responsible for the violation of the laws of war be prosecuted as war criminals.

In 1928 the United States took the lead in organizing a treaty to prohibit recourse to war except in situations of self- defense. The Kellogg-Briand Pact made it illegal to wage aggressive war, and this legal development served as the foundation for the indictment of German and Japanese political and military leaders for war crimes at the end of World War II. The Nuremberg Judgment stands, above all, for the proposition that "the supreme crime" is to wage an aggressive war against another country.

In this section we have collected some of the formal material bearing on the growth of criminal responsibility in relation both to the conduct of warfare and recourse to war.

The Declaration of St. Petersburg in 1868 was made by the principal European governments. Note the concern with the prohibition of weapons of war that cause unnecessary suffering to their victims.


THE DECLARATION OF ST. PETERSBURG, 1868
On the proposition of the Imperial Cabinet of Russia, an International Military Commission having assembled at St. Petersburg in order to examine into the expediency of forbidding the use of certain projectiles in time of war between civilized nations, and that Commission, having by common agreement fixed the technical limits at which the necessities of war ought to yield to the requirements of humanity, the Undersigned are authorized by the orders of their Governments to declare as follows:
Considering that the progress of civilization should have

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