Robert Jackson presents an argument at the Nuremberg War Trials

Sixty Years After the Nuremberg Trials: Crimes Against Humanity and Peace - September 26-29, 2005 at Chautauqua Institution

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Sixty Years After the Nuremberg Trials: Crimes Against Humanity and Peace A Conference Commemorating the Living Legacy of Robert H. Jackson

To commemorate the living legacy of Justice Robert H. Jackson on the 60th anniversary of Nuremberg, Chautauqua Institution - together with the Robert H. Jackson Center and the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia - will host a conference on September 26-29, 2005, entitled, Sixty Years After the Nuremberg Trials: Crimes Against Humanity and Peace. The Athenaeum Hotel will be the site of both the pre-conference activities starting at noon on September 26, and the full conference program.

Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who claimed nearby Jamestown, NY, as his home, gained international acclaim as the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. Justice Jackson was appointed by President Truman as the U.S. Chief Council on May 2, 1945 on the eve of the German unconditional surrender.

Justice Jackson viewed his crowning achievement in public life to be his work in establishing the new standards of international law as a result of his work before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Speaking at the inauguration of the judges of the International Criminal Court at The Hague on March 11, 2003, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said of the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, "Those tribunals established a principle of vital importance: that those who take part in gross violations of international humanitarian law cannot shelter behind the authority of the State in whose name they did so. They must take personal responsibility for their acts, and face the consequences."

The conference will be structured around concurrent panel sessions in the mornings and afternoons with an early evening plenary session. The current speakers include:

  • John Q. Barrett, Robert H. Jackson scholar and Professor of Law at St. John's University;
  • Robert Donihi, one of the last surviving prosecutors of the Tokyo trials;
  • Whitney R. Harris, a former prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, is the author of Tyranny on Trial: the Trial of Major German War Criminals at the End of World War II at Nuremberg Germany;
  • Henry T. King, a former U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, is author of a book on Nuremberg defendant Albert Speer, The Two Worlds of Albert Speer;
  • Edward Luttwak, an internationally recognized authority and Senior Fellow in Preventive Diplomacy whose expertise is Geoeconomics and strategy;
  • A special presentation will be held on Wednesday, September 28 and featuring Abby Mann, the award winning author and screenwriter who wrote the screenplay for Judgement at Nuremberg, directed by Stanley Kramer;
  • Eric Posner, author and researcher specializing in laws of war; Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law at the University of Chicago;
  • Geoffrey Robertson, United Nations appeal judge for the War Crimes Court in West Africa;
  • Christoph J.M. Safferling, author and Assistant Professor in the Institute for Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Criminology in the Law Faculty of the Friedrich Alexander Universitat Erlangen Nurnberg;
  • Michael P. Scharf, Professor of law at Case Western Reserve law school, co-founder of the Public International Law & Policy Group, the Director of Case Western's Frederick K. Cox International Law Center and its War Crimes Research Office;
  • Richard Sonnenfeldt, the Chief Interpreter at the Nuremberg trials.

» Read speaker biographies
» Nuremberg: The Chief Photographer's Story

In the sixty years since Nuremberg, there have been significant developments in international law regarding these types of crimes. For example, the Hague International Criminal Tribunal has heard a number of cases, including that of Slobodan Milosevic, that have seemingly legitimized the notion of 'Crimes against Humanity'. However, this charge, as well as charges regarding Crimes against Peace, in reality has questionable groundings in policy and ethical principles.

The International Military Tribunal's authority, under whose auspices the Nuremberg trials were held, was limited to three categories of crimes: Crimes against Peace (e.g. aggressive war); War Crimes (traditional violations of the laws of war); and Crimes against Humanity (such as genocide).

Of the three categories Nuremberg addressed, 'War Crimes' is the least problematic in origin, since most nations had agreed to treaties, such as the Geneva Convention, defining appropriate actions during war. However, for the Crimes against Peace category (i.e., aggressive war), no similar international agreements defining specific "crimes" existed.

'Crimes against Humanity' is an even more problematic category, since it covers action, committed by sovereign nations against their own people that did not violate domestic law but rather carried it out. Nowhere in international law was there such an injunction prior to Nuremberg. In other words, the Nuremberg Trials introduced the idea that citizens may, by following the law of their nation, violate international law. Previously, the standard operative assumption was that sovereigns had total control over their indigenous peoples.

In light of these still existing concerns, this conference will examine the legacy of Robert H. Jackson and the Nuremberg Trials, and undertake to set forth the theoretical foundations and practical implications for U.S. foreign policy, emphasizing the crucial areas of 'Crimes against Humanity and Peace.'

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