ARE HUMAN RIGHTS TRIALS PROPAGANDA TRIALS?

By William Markiewicz

I received a copy of a paper presented by Dr.T.Fleming at the 1997 international conference in Chicago sponsored by the Lord Byron Foundation: "America's Intervention in the Balkans." In this paper, "Today Sarajevo, Tomorrow Chicago: The Tyranny of Human Rights," Dr. Fleming draws a parallel between the Hague and the Nuremberg trials. He considers unfair the Nuremberg Doctrine which makes individuals subject to international prosecution for actions committed during a war. In consequence he treats international trials as show trials imposed by winners over losers. For him, a uniform code of international conduct in defence of human rights should never have taken precedence over national law, local custom and religious tradition. He sees international law as the noxious gas given off by decaying Western Christianity; divine law with God left out. Dr. Fleming doesn't claim that the Nazi exterminators should have remained unpunished but, in his view, the killers should have been discretely executed or judged by German tribunals according to German law.

First of all I reject Dr. Fleming's claim that the Nuremberg Doctrine "makes individuals liable to international prosecution for actions committed during the war." At Nuremberg it was not people but ideas that kill which were put on trial first. Over one hundred years earlier the British set a precedent by banning the sect of Thugs which was engaged in religious ritual killings. International Human Rights are a reminder that we don't want to live in a universe where nations or societies can annihilate others because of some philosophical and/or religious directive. The latent danger is that the international human rights code may be applied as a pretext for intervention in situations where it does not apply -- like now in the Hague -- but injustices and abuses may occur in any trial not only in international ones. We have to try to hold onto the purity of the concept and not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The idea that the Nazis should have been killed discretely would place their crimes behind the veil of discretion as well. It would be a blessing for the followers of the Himmler doctrine which claims that "the most noble achievement of our race; the extermination of the Jews, has to unfortunately remain hidden forever." Discretion means also an invitation to repeat the acts and we can't know whose turn may be next. The only thing we know is that it is bound to be somebody weak. Leaving judgement of the Nazis to German tribunals might have led to Nazis being judged by Nazis or sympathizers. And if we want to apply strictly the widely accepted law that crimes should be judged in the countries where they were committed, then Polish tribunals, for instance, would have taken priority over German ones.

The idea that we have to remain connected internationally through a moral/legal code should be applied not only to protect minorities, but anybody and anything vulnerable. Cruelty is cruelty and animals, plants, planet, should all be protected. After all, all this is our commonwealth and it also will help to form the new generations as better persons because they'll see that their parents care.

I would like to add one precious gem to the list of endangered species which need international protection: information. This fragile asset is particularly endangered as only those directly affected notice its lack. Amidst general misinformation and indifference the victims risk remaining victimized forever. Professional brain manipulators should be exposed and their activity declared illegal. Freedom of expression shouldn't be confounded with the freedom to manipulate information, that's something to be worked on.



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