A WORLD FEDERATION – Chapter 4– Individual Responsibility: The Nurenberg Principles

1 The training of soldiers

Within individual countries, murder is rightly considered to be the worst of crimes. But the institution of war tries to convince us that if a soldier murders someone from another country, whom the politicians have designated as an “enemy”, it is no longer a crime, no longer a violation of the common bonds of humanity. It is “heroic”. In their hearts, soldiers know that this is nonsense. Murder is always murder.

The men, women and children who are supposed to be the “enemy”, are just ordinary people, with whom the soldier really has no quarrel. Therefore when the training of soldiers wears off a little, so that they realize what they have done, they have to see themselves as murderers, and many commit suicide. A recent article in the journal “Epidemiology” pointed out a startling statistic: for every American soldier killed in combat in 2012, 25 committed suicide. The article also quotes the Department of Veterans Affairs, which says that 18 veterans commit suicide every day.

Obviously, the training of soldiers must overwrite fundamental ethical principles. This training must make a soldier abandon his or her individual conscience and sense of responsibility. It must turn the soldier from a compassionate human being into an automaton, a killing machine. How is this accomplished? Through erosion of of the soldier’s self-respect. Through the endless repetition of senseless rituals where obedience is paramount and from which rational thought and conscience are banished.

In his book on fanaticism, The True Believer (1951), the American author Eric Hoffer gives the following description of the factors promoting self-sacrifice: “To ripen a person for self-sacrifice, he must be stripped of his individual identity. He must cease to be George, Hans, Ivan or Tado – a human atom with an existence bounded by birth and death. The most drastic way to achieve this end is by the complete assimilation of the individual into a collective body. The fully assimilated individual does not see himself and others as human beings. When asked who he is, his automatic response is that he is a German, a Russian, a Japanese, a Christian, a Muslim, a member of a certain tribe or family. He has no purpose, worth or destiny apart from his collective body, and as long as that body lives, he cannot really die. … “The effacement of individual separateness must be thorough.

In every act, however trivial, the individual must, by some ritual, associate himself with the congregation, the tribe, the party, etcetera. His joys and sorrows, his pride and confidence must spring from the fortunes and capacities of the group, rather than from his individual prospects or abilities. Above all, he must never feel alone. Though stranded on a desert island, he must feel that he is under the eyes of the group. To be cast out from the group must be equivalent to being cut off from life. “This is undoubtedly a primitive state of being, and its most perfect examples are found among primitive tribes.

Mass movements strive to approximate this primitive perfection, and we are not imagining things when the anti-individualist bias of contemporary mass movements strikes us as being a throwback to the primitive.” The conditioning of a soldier in a modern army follows the pattern described in Eric Hoffer’s book. The soldier’s training aims at abolishing his sense of individual separateness, individual responsibility, and moral judgment. It is filled with rituals, such as saluting, by which the soldier identifies with his tribe-like army group. His uniform also helps to strip him of his individual identity and to assimilate him into the group. The result of this psychological conditioning is that the soldier’s mind reverts to a primitive state. He surrenders his moral responsibility, and when the politicians tell him to kill, he kills.

true believer

2 The Nuremberg principles adopted by the UN

In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously affirmed “the principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the judgment of the Tribunal”. The General Assembly also established an International Law Commission to formalize the Nuremberg Principles. The result was a list that included Principles VI, which is particularly important in the context of the illegality of NATO:

Principle I

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

Principle II

The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Principle III

The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law, acted as Head of State or responsible government official, does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

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 V

Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.

Principle VI

  1. The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace and humanity:

i. Planning, preparation, initiation or a plan 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).

(b) War crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or illtreatment of prisoners of war or 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.

(c) 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.

Principle VII

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.

nurenberg trials

Figure 2: Nazi war criminals awaiting judgement at the Nuremberg trials.

international law

Figure 3: You cannot just say “I was acting under orders”.


Figure 4: Judgement at Nuremberg

3 The International Criminal Court

The need for an International Criminal Court which would hold individuals responsible for such crimes as genocide had long been recognized, and at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in Rome in June, 1998, the ICC was established by a vote of 120 to 7, with 21 countries abstaining. The seven countries that voted against the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, were China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen. In 2002, after the 60 needed ratifications had been obtained, the International Criminal Court went into force. Today the ICC is located at the Hague, Netherlands.

It has the power to judge cases involving genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, provided that no national court is willing to judge them. Although the ICC functions imperfectly, and is opposed by several powerful nations, it is impossible to underestimate its importance. For the first time individuals are being held responsible for crimes against international law.

As we mentioned above in connection with collective punishment, attempts to coerce nation-states by means of sanctions are neither just nor effective. Political Federations, where laws act on individuals, have historically proved to be effective, just and stable. Thus the establishment of the ICC can be seen as a vital step towards a United Nations Charter reform which would transform the UN from a confederation to a federation.

The ICC deserves the wholehearted support of everyone who believes that institutionalized injustice and the brutal rule of military force should be replaced by a world of peace, justice and law. We must remember the words of the Icelandic saga of Njal: “With law shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”

4 The illegality of NATO

Violation of the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles

In recent years, participation in NATO has made European countries accomplices in US efforts to achieve global hegemony by means of military force, in violation of international law, and especially in violation of the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles. Former UN Assistant Secretary General Hans Christof von Sponeck used the following words to express his opinion that NATO now violates the UN Charter and international law: “In the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, the Charter of the United Nations was declared to be NATO’s legally binding framework. However, the United-Nations monopoly of the use of force, especially as specified in Article 51 of the Charter, was no longer accepted according to the 1999 NATO doctrine. NATO’s territorial scope, until then limited to the Euro-Atlantic region, was expanded by its members to include the whole world.”

Article 2 of the UN Charter requires that “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” This requirement is somewhat qualified by Article 51, which says that “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” Thus, in general, war is illegal under the UN Charter. Self-defense against an armed attack is permitted, but only for a limited time, until the Security Council has had time to act. The United Nations Charter does not permit the threat or use of force in preemptive wars, or to produce regime changes, or for so-called “democratization”, or for the domination of regions that are rich in oil. NATO must not be a party to the threat or use of force for such illegal purposes.

In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously affirmed “the principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the judgment of the Tribunal”. The General Assembly also established an International Law Commission to formalize the Nuremberg Principles. The result was a list that included Principles VI and VII, which are particularly important in the context of the illegality of NATO: Robert H. Jackson, who was the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, said that “To initiate a war of aggression is… not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

At present, NATO’s nuclear weapons policies violate both the spirit and the text of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in several respects: Today there are an estimated 200 US nuclear weapons still in Europe The air forces of the nations in which they are based are regularly trained to deliver the US weapons. This “nuclear sharing”, as it is called, violates Articles I and II of the NPT, which forbid the transfer of nuclear weapons to non-nuclearweapon states. It has been argued that the NPT would no longer be in force if a crisis arose, but there is nothing in the NPT saying that the treaty would not hold under all circumstances.

Article VI of the NPT requires states possessing nuclear weapon to get rid of them within a reasonable period of time. This article is violated by fact that NATO policy is guided by a Strategic Concept, which visualizes the continued use of nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.’ The principle of no-first-use of nuclear weapons has been an extremely important safeguard over the years, but it is violated by present NATO policy, which permits the first-use of nuclear weapons in a wide variety of circumstances.

Must Europe really be dragged into a potentially catastrophic war with Russia?

At present the United States government is trying to force the European members of NATO to participate in aggressive military operations near to Russia. Europe must refuse. The hubris, and reckless irresponsibility of the US government in risking a catastrophic war with Russia is almost beyond belief, but the intervention in Ukraine is only one in a long series of US interventions: During the period from 1945 to the present, the US interfered, militarily or covertly, in the internal affairs of a large number of nations: China, 1945-49; Italy, 1947-48; Greece, 1947-49; Philippines, 1946-53; South Korea, 1945-53; Albania, 1949-53; Germany, 1950s; Iran, 1953; Guatemala, 1953-1990s; Middle East, 1956-58; Indonesia, 1957-58; British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64; Vietnam, 1950-73; Cambodia, 1955-73; The Congo/Zaire, 196065; Brazil, 1961-64; Dominican Republic, 1963-66; Cuba, 1959-present; Indonesia, 1965; Chile, 1964-73; Greece, 1964-74; East Timor, 1975-present; Nicaragua, 1978-89; Grenada, 1979-84; Libya, 1981-89; Panama, 1989; Iraq, 1990-present; Afghanistan 1979-92; El Salvador, 1980-92; Haiti, 1987-94; Yugoslavia, 1999; and Afghanistan, 2001-present, Syria, 2013-present. Egypt, 2013-present.

Most of these interventions were explained to the American people as being necessary to combat communism (or more recently, terrorism), but an underlying motive was undoubtedly the desire of the ruling oligarchy to put in place governments and laws that would be favorable to the economic interests of the US and its allies. Also, the militaryindustrial complex needs justification for the incredibly bloated military budgets that drain desperately needed resources from social and environmental projects. Do the people of Europe really want to participate in the madness of aggression against Russia? Of course not! What about European leaders? Why don’t they follow the will of the people and free Europe from bondage to the United States? Have our leaders been bribed? Or have they been blackmailed through personal secrets, discovered by the long arm of NSA spying?

Suggestions for further reading

  1. Matt Wood, Crunching the Numbers on the Rate of Suicide Among Veterans, Epidemiology, April 27, (2012).

  2. Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, Harper and Row, (1951).

  3. Daniele Archibugi and Alice Pease, Crime and Global Justice. The Dynamics of International Punishment, Polity Press, (2018).

  4. David Bosco, Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court’s Battle to Fix the World, One Prosecution at a Time, Oxford University Press, (2014).

  5. Bruce Broomhall, International Justice and the International Criminal Court: Between Sovereignty and the Rule of Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2003).

  6. Anne-Marie de Brouwer, Supranational Criminal Prosecution of Sexual Violence: The ICC and the Practice of the ICTY and the ICTR. Antwerp – Oxford: Intersentia (2005).

  7. Karin Calvo-Goller, The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court ICTY and ICTR Precedents, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, (2006),

A freely downloadable book

A new 418-page book entitled “A World Federation” may be downloaded and circulated gratis from the following link:


John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. During his tenure The Pugwash Movement won a nobel peace prize.  Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988-1997).

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