ICC International justice - First generation tribunals
Nuremberg and Tokyo
Following the Second World War, the victorious Allied Forces tried over 200 prominent Nazi leaders for war crimes in international tribunals established specifically for that purpose. Headed by judges representing the four Allied powers, the trials were held in Nuremberg, Germany from 1945 to 1949. While the tribunals’ jurisdiction was limited to violations of the laws of war and to crimes committed during the Second World War, the Nuremberg trials were a watershed in international criminal law, recognising individual responsibility for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
A similar tribunal was established in Tokyo, Japan. The International Military Tribunal to the Far East (‘the Tokyo Tribunal’) was constituted by judges representing 11 different nations and was in operation from 1946 to 1948. The Tokyo Tribunal heard cases against 28 Japanese military and political leaders and thousands of Japanese nationals for crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials therefore contributed extensively to the creation and development of international criminal law and responsibility. Perhaps most significantly, the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials established the principle of individual responsibility for serious violations of international law, notwithstanding that the individual may have acted under orders from his or her superiors. However, the achievements of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials were undermined by criticisms of the application of ex post facto law and victor’s justice.