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date: 20 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article assesses the aftereffects of the Holocaust on human rights law. Addressing the so-called ‘promise of Nuremberg’, which began in 1945 with the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, it argues that the Charter, partly as a response to the evil of the Holocaust, broke dramatically with traditional international law by mandating ‘individual responsibility’ for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by the leaders of the Axis Powers. The Nuremberg Principles were codified into international law by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide followed in 1948. However, the promise of Nuremberg remains largely unfulfilled. None of these post-World War II documents included mechanisms for executive or judicial enforcement, the UN Security Council was stymied by the power of the veto held by its permanent members, and the UN became a community of bystander states that has allowed numerous genocides and mass killings to occur. Among the possibilities for making the world safer for human rights are reform of the Security Council, creation of an international Rapid Response Force, the spread of democracy, and a reduction of poverty in the underdeveloped world.

Keywords: Holocaust, international law, Nuremberg, individual responsibility, Axis Powers, Nuremberg Principles

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