Ferencz standing in the courtroom where the Nuremberg trials were held, 2012
Benjamin Berell Ferencz
March 11, 1920
|Alma mater|| Harvard Law School |
City College of New York
Benjamin Berell Ferencz (born March 11, 1920)is a Hungarian-born American lawyer. He was an investigator of Nazi war crimes after World War II and the Chief Prosecutor for the United States Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the twelve military trials held by the U.S. authorities at Nuremberg, Germany. Later, he became an advocate of the establishment of an international rule of law and of an International Criminal Court. From 1985 to 1996, he was Adjunct Professor of International Law at Pace University.
A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, counselor at law, solicitor, chartered legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.
A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, such as strategic bombing of civilian populations.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Ferencz was born in Transylvania, home to ethnic Hungarians as part of Romania. When he was ten months old his family emigrated to the United States, and according to his own account this was to avoid the persecution of Jews by the Romanians.The family settled in New York City, where they lived on the Lower East Side in Manhattan.
Transylvania is a historical region which is located in central Romania. Bound on the east and south by its natural borders, the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended westward to the Apuseni Mountains. The term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also parts of the historical regions of Crișana and Maramureș, and occasionally the Romanian part of Banat.
The Kingdom of Romania was a constitutional monarchy at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It existed from 1881, when prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was crowned as King Carol I of Romania, until 1947, when King Michael I of Romania abdicated and the Romanian parliament proclaimed Romania a socialist republic.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
Ferencz studied crime prevention at the City College of New York and won a scholarship to Harvard Law School with his criminal law exam result. At Harvard, he studied under Roscoe Poundand also did research for Sheldon Glueck, who at that time was writing a book on war crimes. Ferencz graduated from Harvard in 1943. After his studies, he joined the U.S. Army, where he served in the 115th AAA Gun Battalion, an anti-aircraft artillery unit. In 1945, he was transferred to the headquarters of General Patton's Third Army, where he was assigned to a team tasked with setting up a war crimes branch and collecting evidence for such crimes. In this function, he was then sent to the concentration camps as they were liberated by the U.S. army.
The City College of the City University of New York is a public senior college of the City University of New York (CUNY) in New York City.
A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further their education. Scholarships are awarded based upon various criteria, which usually reflect the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award. Scholarship money is not required to be repaid.
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1817, it is the oldest continuously operating law school in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. It is ranked first in the world by the QS World University Rankings and the ARWU Shanghai Ranking.
On Christmas 1945,Ferencz was honorably discharged from the Army with the rank of Sergeant. He returned to New York, but was recruited only a few weeks later to participate as a prosecutor in the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials in the legal team of Telford Taylor. Taylor appointed him Chief Prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen Case—Ferencz's first case. All of the 22 men on trial were convicted; 13 of them received death sentences, of which four were eventually carried out.
Sergeant is a rank in many uniformed organizations, principally military and policing forces. The alternate spelling, "serjeant", is used in The Rifles and other units that draw their heritage from the British Light Infantry. Its origin is the Latin "serviens", "one who serves", through the French term "sergent".
Telford Taylor (1908–1998) was an American lawyer best known for his role as Counsel for the Prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, his opposition to Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, and his outspoken criticism of U.S. actions during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s.
In a 2005 interview for The Washington Post he revealed some of his activities during his period in Germany by way of showing how different military legal norms were at the time:
The Washington Post is a major American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., with a particular emphasis on national politics and the federal government. It has the largest circulation in the Washington metropolitan area. Its slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" began appearing on its masthead in 2017. Daily broadsheet editions are printed for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.
Ferencz stayed in Germany after the Nuremberg Trials, together with his wife Gertrude,whom he had married in New York on March 31, 1946. Together with Kurt May and others, he participated in the setup of reparation and rehabilitation programs for the victims of persecutions by the Nazis, and also had a part in the negotiations that led to the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany signed on September 10, 1952 and the first German Restitution Law in 1953. In 1956, the family—they had four children by then—returned to the U.S., where Ferencz entered private law practice as a partner of Telford Taylor.
Kurt May (1896–1992) was director of the United Restitution Organization, which assisted victims of Nazism, from its inception in 1948 to his retirement at age 91, in 1988.
The Reparations Agreement between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany was signed on September 10, 1952, and entered in force on March 27, 1953. According to the Agreement, West Germany was to pay Israel for the costs of "resettling so great a number of uprooted and destitute Jewish refugees" after the war, and to compensate individual Jews, via the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, for losses in Jewish livelihood and property resulting from Nazi persecution.
The German Restitution Laws were a series of laws passed in the 1950s in West Germany regulating the restitution of lost property and the payment of damages to victims of the Nazi persecutions.
Experiences just after World War II left a defining impression on Ferencz.After thirteen years, and under the impression of the events of the Vietnam War, Ferencz left the private law practice and henceforth worked for the institution of an International Criminal Court that would serve as a worldwide highest court for issues of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He also published several books on this subject. Already in his first book published in 1975, entitled Defining International Aggression-The Search for World Peace, he argued for the establishment of such an international court. From 1985 to 1996, Ferencz also worked as an Adjunct Professor of International Law at Pace University at White Plains, New York.
An International Criminal Court was established on July 1, 2002, when the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court came into force. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. did sign the treaty, but did not ratify it. The administration of George W. Bush concluded a large number of bilateral agreements with other states that would exclude U.S. citizens from being brought before the ICC.
Ferencz has repeatedly argued against this procedure and suggested that the U.S. join the ICC without reservations, as it was a long-established rule of law that "law must apply equally to everyone", also in an international context.In this vein, he has suggested in an interview given on August 25, 2006, that not only Saddam Hussein should be tried, but also George W. Bush because the Iraq War had been begun by the U.S. without permission by the UN Security Council. In 2013, Ferencz stated once more that the "use of armed force to obtain a political goal should be condemned as an international and a national crime."
In 2009, Ferencz was awarded the Erasmus Prize, together with Antonio Cassese; the award is given to individuals or institutions that have made notable contributions to European culture, society, or social science.
On May 3, 2011, two days after the death of Osama bin Laden was reported, The New York Times published a Ferencz letter which argued that "illegal and unwarranted execution - even of suspected mass murderers - undermines democracy."Also that year he presented a closing statement in the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo in Uganda.
On March 16, 2012, Ferencz, in another letter to the editor of The New York Times, hailed the International Criminal Court's conviction of Thomas Lubanga as "a milestone in the evolution of international criminal law."
On May 7, 2017, Ferencz was interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes .
In 2018, filmmaker Barry Avrich produced Prosecuting Evil, a feature length documentary on Ben Ferencz's life.
In April 2017, the municipality of The Hague announced that the city will honor Benjamin Ferencz by naming the footpath next to the Peace Palace after him as "one of the figureheads of international justice": the Benjamin Ferenczpad (Benjamin Ferenczpath). The city's Deputy Mayor Saskia Bruines (International Affairs) travelled to Washington to symbolically present the street sign to Ferencz.The street sign at the path next to the Peace Palace was unveiled by Ferencz, at the age of 97, and Deputy Mayor Bruines on 15 May 2017, together with a group of pupils of the local Duinoord School involved in a human rights project.
The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer situations to the Court. The ICC began functioning on 1 July 2002, the date that the Rome Statute entered into force. The Rome Statute is a multilateral treaty which serves as the ICC's foundational and governing document. States which become party to the Rome Statute, for example by ratifying it, become member states of the ICC. As of March 2019, there are 124 ICC member states.
The Nuremberg trials were a series of military tribunals held by the Allied forces under international law and the laws of war after World War II. The trials were most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial and economic leadership of Nazi Germany, who planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in the Holocaust and other war crimes. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Germany, and their decisions marked a turning point between classical and contemporary international law.
Crimes against humanity are certain acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population. The first prosecution for crimes against humanity took place at the Nuremberg trials. Crimes against humanity have since been prosecuted by other international courts as well as in domestic prosecutions. The law of crimes against humanity has primarily developed through the evolution of customary international law. Crimes against humanity are not codified in an international convention, although there is currently an international effort to establish such a treaty, led by the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative.
The Nuremberg principles were a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. The document was created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations to codify the legal principles underlying the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi party members following World War II.
A crime against peace, in international law, is "planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing". This definition of crimes against peace was first incorporated into the Nuremberg Principles and later included in the United Nations Charter. This definition would play a part in defining aggression as a crime against peace. It can also refer to the core international crimes set out in Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which adopted crimes negotiated previously in the Draft code of crimes against the peace and security of mankind.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as the Tokyo Trial or the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, was a military trial convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for joint conspiracy to start and wage war, conventional war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The subsequent Nuremberg trials were a series of twelve military tribunals for war crimes against members of the leadership of Nazi Germany, held in the Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, after World War II from 1946 to 1949 following the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal.
The Krupp Trial was the tenth of twelve trials for war crimes that U.S. authorities held in their occupation zone at Nuremberg, Germany after the end of World War II.
The Einsatzgruppen trial was the ninth of the twelve trials for war crimes the US authorities held in their occupation zone in Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before US military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal. They took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve US trials are collectively known as the "Subsequent Nuremberg trials" or, more formally, as the "Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" (NMT).
Henry T. King Jr. was an attorney who served as a U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946-47. Late in his career, he became a law professor and an activist, writer, and lecturer working on international law and war crimes; David M. Crane has described King as "the George Washington of modern international law".
Command responsibility, sometimes referred to as the Yamashita standard or the Medina standard, and also known as superior responsibility, is the legal doctrine of hierarchical accountability for war crimes.
Stephen Funk is a former United States Marine Corps Landing Support Specialist and Lance Corporal reservist. He was the first person to publicly refuse to deploy in Iraq.
A war crimes trial is the trial of persons charged with criminal violation of the laws and customs of war and related principles of international law committed during armed conflict.
Superior orders, often known as the Nuremberg defense, lawful orders or by the German phrase Befehl ist Befehl, is a plea in a court of law that a person—whether a member of the military, law enforcement, a firefighting force, or the civilian population—not be held guilty for actions ordered by a superior officer or an official.
Robert Kurt Woetzel, professor of international law, was for many years a leading proponent for the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
Hans-Peter Kaul was a German international law scholar and former diplomat and international judge. From 11 March 2003 until 1 July 2014, he served as Judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. At the ICC, Judge Kaul was President of the Pre-Trial Division from 2004 until March 2009 and again in 2014, and he was the Court's Vice-President from 2009 to 2012. In 2014, he resigned from the ICC for health reasons but his condition became worse and he died on 21 July 2014.
Luis Gabriel Moreno Ocampo is an Argentine lawyer and the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). He previously worked as a prosecutor in Argentina, where he gained fame by representing the public face of the prosecution in the military officials in the Trial of the Juntas. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School.
The International Criminal Court investigation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during the Second Congo War and its aftermath, including the Ituri and Kivu conflicts. The war started in 1998 and despite a peace agreement between combatants in 2003, conflict continued in the eastern parts of the country for several years. In April 2004 the government of the DRC formally referred the situation in the Congo to the International Criminal Court, and in June 2004, prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, formally opened an investigation. To date, arrest warrants have been issued for:
The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law serves as a center for instruction and research in international and comparative law.
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