Fulfilling the Martens Clause : debating "crimes against humanity", 1899-1945
Kerstin von Lingen
Humanity : a history of European concepts in practice from the sixteenth century to the present
Göttingen : Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016
The use of the concept of crimes against humanity as a legal tool in the tribunals of our times can be seen as the legacy of the idea of humanity in warfare, rooted in a moral approach to injustice, as reflected within the anti-slavery courts during the nineteenth century, and its political legacy as embodied in the Peace Conferences at The Hague (1899 and 1907) and their preamble, the Martens Clause. Only following the experience of the First World War and its political failure to deter perpetrators from further crimes, the notion of humanity was transformed into a legally sound concept, brought forward during the Second World War by exile lawyers who gained access with their ideas to political decision-making circles. The long way from debates within the United Nations War Crimes Commission to the charters of Nuremberg and Tokyo reflect the permanent tension between the ideas of justice, diplomatic considerations and geopolitics.