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31 Mar 22

In ordering Russia’s attack on Ukraine, did Vladimir Putin commit an international crime? By the lights of the Nuremberg trial, the answer is certainly yes. Nuremberg treated aggressive war as the “supreme international crime.” It constituted the core crime of the Nazi Verbrecherstaat (criminal state), the violation that contained the “accumulated evil” of all the Reich’s atrocities. Seventy-five years after Nuremberg, the answer is less clear. In the decades since Nuremberg, international criminal law has shifted its focus from acts of aggressive war to acts of state-sponsored atrocity. What accounts for this shift and what are its consequences for the effort to deal with state-sponsored crimes? In weighing these questions, Lawrence Douglas explores how the competing understandings of the core crimes of the criminal state have worked to form — and deform — the emerging fabric of international criminal law.

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