Sociology Index


War crime is an offence committed in wartime which violates the accepted rules of war. After the Second World War Allied nations determined to prosecute German war criminals and defined ‘war crimes’ as plotting aggressive warfare and committing atrocities against any civilian population. This definition was used in the trials of war criminals which began in 1945. In the 1990s the United Nations again initiated tribunals to prosecute war criminals in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. There are many organizations exposing large-scale violations of human rights and war crimes.

"As far back as one can go in history, these atrocities have been going on, not only in Germany with its Dachaus and its Buchenwalds, but in Russia, in the Pacific, in the riotings and lynchings at home, in the less-publicized uprisings in Central and South America, in pogroms of the past, the burning of witches in New England, tearing people apart on the English racks, burnings at the stake for the benefit of Christ and God. I look down at the pit of ashes. This, I realize, is not a thing confined to any nation or to any people. What the German has done to the Jew in Europe, we are doing to the Jap in the Pacific." Lindbergh, one of the great American heroes of the pre-war period, rendered this damning summation on American atrocities committed against the Japanese in his journals. History books say very little about the war crimes committed by the Allies during World War II.

Are Crimes against Humanity More Serious than War Crimes? 
Micaela Frulli, University Federico II of Naples. This paper addresses the question of the relative gravity of crimes against humanity vis-a-vis war crimes. The issue is tackled from a double perspective. First, the categories of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are compared at the general or legislative level. The author concludes that it seems possible to infer that genocide and crimes against humanity are considered more serious than war crimes. Secondly, the paper focuses on the judicial and sentencing implications of the determination of the degree of gravity of crimes. In this perspective, it examines Nuremberg and post-Second World War jurisprudence as well as case law of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The issue of national regulations concerning penalties applicable to the different categories of crimes is then tackled. This section of the paper also confirms that there is room for concluding that crimes against humanity are considered more serious than war crimes.

THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS, WAR CRIMES, AND HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCIES - John Hagan, Heather Schoenfeld, Alberto Palloni. - Sociology can be an important disciplinary bridge between the study of what demographers call forced migration and mortality and what legal sociologists and criminologists understand as war crimes. The frequency of these emergencies is growing, and there is an increasing amount of data collected by governmental and nongovernmental organizations exposing large-scale violations of human rights and war crimes. Yet analyses of these data are often inadequate. Although the humanitarian emergency in Kosovo marked a high point in collaborative human rights research, the circumstances that allowed this collaboration are probably atypical.

Prosecution of War Crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Alex Obote-Odora LLB (Makerere); LLM, LLD (Stockholm), Legal Advisor, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Abstract: The author is not concerned with the correctness nor the wisdom of the decisions made by the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda. Rather he concentrates on the jurisprudence of how such prosecutions could be more successfully done. He expounds on the principles of law in the context of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Hutus against the Tutsis in Rwanda. For a successful prosecution of war criminals, he contends that a nexus between the internal armed conflict in Rwanda and the war crimes committed by the accused persons must be unequivocably established by the Prosecution. This nexus, he justifies, must rightly be a "concept", a preconceived idea or thought rather than a "conception" of ideas which is yet formative and everchanging in nature. An adoption of the latter meaning of "nexus" could unfairly prejudice the trial of the war criminals.

Flaws in the Nuremberg Legacy: An Impediment to International War Crimes Tribunals' Prosecution of Crimes Against Humanity - Robert Wolfe, National Archives. This article examines the legal and historical issues that arose at Nuremberg and that have frustrated subsequent efforts—through the 1998 charter of the International War Crimes Tribunal—to establish an international framework for prosecuting crimes against humanity. Wolfe concludes that the main obstacle to the successful establishment of such a tribunal continues to be the abiding reluctance of nations to yield elements of their sovereignty to an international legal body. Yet, in the course of his study, he also argues that it is unfair to fault Nuremberg for not creating a workable, international legal precedent to prosecute war crimes. For despite their legacy, the Nuremberg trials did accomplish what all later war crimes prosecutions have attempted.

War Crimes Prosecution in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–2002) 
An Analysis through the Jurisprudence of the Human Rights Chamber 

Ulrich Garms and Katharina Peschke. The authors examine the efforts to bring persons suspected of war crimes committed during the 1992–1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to justice before the national judiciary. The analysis is based on the case law of the Human Rights Chamber for BiH, which from 1996–2003 was the highest court competent to adjudicate violations of human rights in post-war BiH. The Chamber heard complaints linked to war-time atrocities from two main perspectives: (i) that of persons put on trial for war crimes and (ii) the perspective of the relatives of war-crimes victims complaining about the failure to investigate and prosecute.