“You’ll see. A few years from now the lawyers

of the world will condemn this trial. You can’t have

a trial without law.”

–Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister

of Nazi Germany, 20 November 1945.

The Nuremberg trials (pictured above) were highly polarizing military tribunals that tried officials of Nazi Germany after the end of World War II. The trials are celebrated for establishing the crimes against humanity and crimes in international law can be committed by individuals too, not just abstract entities such as states. They are also celebrated because they solidified the jurisprudence that would later become the laws regarding crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Its critics called it an exercise in “victor’s justice”; none of these crimes existed before the advent of the trial and the indictment of German defendants for conspiracy to commit aggression against Poland in 1939, while no one from the Soviet Union was charged for being part of the same conspiracy affirms the bias.

However, the trials have a much greater significance. Over the years, the logic of individual responsibility and crimes against humanity developed during the trials heavily influenced international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Genocide Convention in the same year. Its principals have grown to the extent that there is now a permanent International Criminal Courts that tries individuals for crimes against international law.