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The term war crime brings to mind a combination of horrific images, concentration camps, ethnic cleansing, execution of prisoners, rape, and bombardment of cities. These images correspond in many ways to the legal definitions of the term, but international law draws lines that do not in all ways match our sense of the most awful behavior. War crimes are those violations of the laws of war, or international humanitarian law (IHL) that deserve individual criminal responsibility. While limitations on the conduct of armed conflict date back at least to the Chinese warrior Sun Tzu (sixth century B. C. ), the ancient Greeks were among the first to regard such prohibitions as law. The notion of "war crimes" appeared more fully in the Hindu code of Manu (around 200 B.
C. ), and eventually made its way into Roman and European law. The first true trial for war crimes is generally considered to be that of Peter von Hagenbach, who was tried in 1474 in Austria and sentenced to death for wartime atrocities. (Gutman and Rieff pg. 374) By World War I, States had accepted that certain violations of the laws of war, much of which had been defined in the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, were crimes. The 1945 Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg defined war crimes as "violations of the laws or customs of war, " including murder, ill-treatment, or deportation of civilians in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war; killing of hostages; raiding of public or private property; meaningless destruction of towns; and devastation not militarily necessary. (Gutman and Rieff pg. 374) The 1949 Geneva Conventions marked the first inclusion in a humanitarian law treaty of a set of war crimes and the grave breaches of the conventions. Each of the four Geneva Conventions (on wounded and sick on land, wounded and sick at sea, prisoners of war, and civilians) contains its own list of grave breaches. The list in its entirety is: willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment (including medical experiments); willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; extensive destruction and misuse of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully; forcing a prisoner of war or civilian to serve in the forces of the hostile power; willfully depriving a prisoner of war or protected civilian of the rights of a fair and regular trial; unlawful deportation or transfer of a protected civilian; unlawful confinement of a protected civilian; and taking of hostages. Additional Protocol I of 1977 expanded the protections of the Geneva Conventions for international conflicts to include as grave breaches: certain medical experimentation; making civilians and non-defended areas the object or unavoidable victims of attack; the deceitful use of the Red Cross or Red Crescent emblem; transfer of an occupying power of parts of its population to occupied territory; unjustifiable delays in release of POWs; apartheid; attack on historic monuments; and depriving protected persons of a fair trial.
Under the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I, States must prosecute persons accused of grave breaches or hand them over to a State willing to do so. (Gutman and Rieff pg. 375) Crimes of war unfortunately, happen in every war that has occurred throughout history. Amongst them are slavery, biological experiments, apartheid, and genocide which are only a few dominant actions carried out by people that have inflicted these horrific crimes. One disturbing example of slavery takes place in Sudan. Sudan's ruling National Islamic Front government in Khartoum did not have enough money to pay the Arab forces serving in the non-Arab and mainly non-Muslim provinces in the south, so it had been allowing the militias its arms as well as its soldiers to take southern women and children as slaves. There were 249 black children and women under a mahogany tree, all of them waiting for the white Western humanitarian workers to purchase and release them after the trade.
The traders were two Arabs in blue jellabas, who were very nervous. The sale would amount to 14 million Sudanese pounds (fourteen thousand dollars). There were reports in 1996, by the UN that stated there was an alarming increase in the number of cases of slavery, servitude, slave trade, and forced labor. An astonishing fact about all of this inhumane activity is that for the most part, these actions were carried out by persons acting under the authority and approval from the Government of Sudan. Enslavement of people captured during conflict has been classified as a war crime for more than a century, going back to the Lieber Code, drafted for the Union Army in the U.
S. Civil War. Today, slavery is outlawed by international law both in peacetime and in wartime. The 1977 Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions clearly extends this prohibition to domestic armed conflict. "Slavery and the slave trade in all their forms...
are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever, " Article 4 states. Even though the United States and a number of other countries did not authorize that set of rules, the prohibition against slavery is regarded as a binding rule of standard international law in all conflicts, whether international or internal. Slavery, according to Article 1 of the 1926 Slavery Convention, "is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised. " The convention defines the slave trade as "all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view to selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged and, in general, every act of trade or transport of slaves. " But slavery comes in a number of disguises, and definitions of it can change. Slavery could also be called serfdom, the 1956 United Nations Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery states that if the condition or status of a tenant "is by law, custom or agreement bound to live and labor on land belonging to another person and to render some determinate service to such person, whether for reward or not, and is not free to change his status" such a serf or tenant can be considered a slave. Another upsetting truth about war crimes is the fact that atrocities such as biological experiments occurred during certain war times. The worst of these experiments most likely occurred in German concentration camps during the Second World War.
People must remember that the holocaust not only involved numerous accounts of war crimes, but it was an insult to humanity as well. The lives that were lost were not only great in number, but could have offered so much to mankind. Doctors have been thought of as saviors to humans, healers and caretakers of our utter existence. Physicians have been given a sacred trust over the course of history. The Nazi doctors violated the trust placed in them by humanity. For the most part, unfortunately, the doctors escaped the crimes and lived a life, unlike their victims.
They conducted many experiments during this time on humans, as if they were lab rats. The first example of sick experiments they carried out was the freezing / hypothermia experiments. They were conducted on men to simulate the conditions of the armies suffered on the Eastern Front. The freezing experiments were divided into two parts. First, to see how long it would take to lower the body temperature till death, and second the best way to receive the frozen victim. The two main methods used to freeze the victims were either to put the person into and icy vat of water, or to put the victim outside naked in sub-zero temperatures.
The resuscitation or warming experiments were just as cruel and painful as the freezing experiments. Examples of the reviving process include; placing victims under sun lamps hot enough to burn the skin, placing them in warm water and increasing the temperature sometimes resulting in shock, and the most painful where the victim would have blistering water forcefully pumped into the stomach, bladder, and intestines where all victims died. Another series of experiments were carried out on "very healthy and very handsome" male Hungarian twins, who were examined from head to toe, and then murdered after all physical data was taken. They were photographed nude with, and without hair. Hair extractions were painful and lengthy. They underwent two liter enemas which...
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