Are Human Rights Good for International Business

D'Amato, Anthony | January 1, 1979

When I take up the Nuremberg cases in my class in International Law, I find it quite difficult to convey to the students how radical those proceedings appeared to be in 1947. At that time, the contention that there should be individual accountability under international law seemed to constitute an unfounded and dangerous precedent. How could political leaders be made personally responsible for acts of state such as instituting a war (even an “aggressive” war) or engaging in wholly internal policies (the “final solution” against Jews and other minorities of their own citizens)? Indeed, the Nuremberg result seemed somewhat unprincipled to my teachers when I went to law school in the late 1950’s. But today’s students, an entirely new generation, find the Nuremberg decisions unremarkable. Of course, they say, the Nazi leaders were criminally guilty of mass murder and should not have been able to hide behind the instrumentality of the state or government.