The Sunday Conversation
10:56 am
Sun September 8, 2013

Nuremberg Prosecutor Makes The Case For Trying Assad

Originally published on Sun September 8, 2013 11:40 am

Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

When he was just 27 years old, Benjamin Ferencz helped prosecute Nazi leaders in the Nuremburg war crimes trial after World War II. In the years since, the Harvard-educated lawyer has continued to focus on issues of international criminal justice.

As he considers the possibility the U.S. might launch strikes on Syria, Ferencz raises the idea of using the International Criminal Court to try Syrian President Bashar Assad for the alleged use of chemical weapons.

But, he tells NPR's Rachel Martin, "the United States has been opposed, unfortunately ... to using that court because we value our sovereignty and we want to decide for ourselves when we go to war and when we don't. A very, very dangerous practice, as we're now discovering."

Using the ICC to bring someone to justice can take years, something Ferencz admits he's not comfortable with. "I wish we could go into court and have a trial over in three days as I did in Nuremberg," he says.

"But the fact we are not comfortable is not the test. The test is whether it's just or not. Is it just for an individual in any country to conclude that some individual in another country is guilty of supreme crimes and therefore he should be punished, without a trial of any kind? Is that just?"

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