Anti-nuclear working group

Nuclear Information: Nuremberg Principles

Nuclear Weapons

The Nuremberg principles were drawn up following the famous Nazi War Crime Tribunals following the atrocities of World War II. The ICJ Opinion identified that the Principles would apply to nuclear weapons.

Principle I

Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.

Principle IV

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle VI

Following crimes are punishable as crimes under international law:

Crimes against peace:
(i) - Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) - Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of, or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of, or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

The principles outline what to many of us would be common sense. Some actions are plainly wrong, and every one of us has a responsibility to prevent genocide. The principles specify that to act on the orders of your government does not relieve you of this responsibility in the eyes of international law.

It is for these reasons that the Nuremberg Principles are key to Citizen's War Crimes Inspections. In 1998, the date of October 1 was chosen by the Abolition Days Network as an international day of action because it is the anniversary of the end of the Nuremberg Trials.

In various actions so far, activists have sought to educate military personnel on their obligations under the Nuremberg Principles. We have maintained, when stopped by police or security, that we are acting on a higher authority than theirs - not just our consciences, but international law itself.

Friends of the Earth Flanders & Brussels (formerly For Mother Earth) is a member of Friends of the Earth International