Laws of War

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Laws of War

The term "laws of war" refers to the rules governing the actual conduct of armed conflict. This idea that there actually exists rules that govern war is a difficult concept to understand. The simple act of war in and of itself seems to be in violation of an almost universal law prohibiting one human being from killing another. But during times of war murder of the enemy is allowed, which leads one to the question, "if murder is permissible then what possible "laws of war" could there be?" The answer to this question can be found in the Charter established at the International Military Tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo:

Crimes against Humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated. Leaders, organizers, instigators, and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.1

The above excerpt comes form the Charter of the Tribunal Article 6 section C, which makes it quite clear that in general the "laws of war" are there to protect innocent civilians before and during war.

It seems to be a fair idea to have such rules governing armed conflict in order to protect the civilians in the general location of such a conflict. But, when the conflict is over, and if war crimes have been committed, how then are criminals of war brought to justice? The International Military Tribunals held after World War II in Nuremberg on 20 November 1945 and in Tokyo on 3 May 1946 are excellent examples of how such crimes of war are dealt with. (Roberts and Guelff 153-54) But, rather than elaborate on exact details of the Tribunals of Nuremberg and Tokyo a more important matter must be dealt with. What happens when alleged criminals of war are unable to be apprehended and justly tried? Are they forgotten about, or are they sought after such as other criminals are in order to serve justice? What happens if these alleged violators are found residing somewhere other than where their pursuers want to bring them to justice? How does one go about legally obtaining the custody of one such suspect? Some of the answers to these questions can be found in an analysis of how Israel went about obtaining the custody of individuals that it thought to be guilty of Nazi War Crimes. Not only will one find some of the answers to the previously stated questions, but also one will gain an understanding of one facet of international law and how it works.

Two cases in specific will be dealt with here. First, the extradition of Adolf Eichmann from Argentina, and second, the extradition of John Demjanjuk from the United States of America. These cases demonstrate two very different ways that Israel went about obtaining the custody of these alleged criminals. The cases also expose the intricacy of International Law in matters of extradition. But, before we begin to examine each of these cases we must first establish Israel's right to judicial processing of alleged Nazi war criminals.

To understand the complications involved in Israel placing suspected Nazi war criminals on trial, lets review the history of Israel's situation. During World War II the Nazis were persecuting Jews in their concentration camps. At this time the state of Israel did not exist. The ending of the war meant the ending of the persecution, and when the other countries discovered what the Nazis had done Military Tribunals quickly followed. Some of the accused war criminals were tried and sentenced, but others managed to escape judgement and thus became fugitives running from international law....
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