Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity: Prosecution

“Crimes against the basic principles of humanity are nothing new to the history of mankind. In nearly all historical cases, investigations never took place, and criminal sentences were never passed on the responsible persons. There was only one conviction in a remarkable case, that of Peter von Hagenbach, in 1474. Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, known to his enemies as Charles the Terrible, had placed Landvogt Peter von Hagenbach at the helm of the government of the fortified city of Breisach, which was located at the French-German Rhine border. The governor, overzealous in following his master's instructions, introduced a regime of arbitrariness, brutality and terror in order to reduce the population of Breisach to total submission. When a large coalition put an end to the ambitious goals of the powerful Duke, the siege of Breisach and a revolt by both his German mercenaries and the local citizens led to Hagenbach's defeat. Hagenbach was then brought before a tribunal initiated by the Archduke of Austria and charged with murder, rape, perjury, and other crimes. The tribunal found him guilty and deprived him of his rank and related privileges. Hagenbach was then executed. This trial is often referred to as the first international criminal law or war crimes prosecution. It kept this distinction until the twentieth century, when the first serious efforts were begun to prosecute and punish persons guilty of international crimes”

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