Side Event – “Film screening: Peace Through Justice - The Legacy of Thomas Buergenthal (hosted by International Nuremberg Principles Academy)

Overview by Cleo Meinicke, Research Associate PILPG NL

On the fifth day of the 17thAssembly of States Parties, the film “Peace Through Justice – The Legacy of Thomas Buergenthal”, produced by Ilona Kalmbach and Sabine Jainski for the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, was screened at the Omniversumfilm theater in The Hague. The film provided insight into the International Nuremberg Principles Academy with a special focus on the first president of the Advisory Council of the Academy, Thomas Buergenthal, who is now honorary president of the Council. 

Thomas Buergenthal survived the Holocaust at the age of eleven, but lost his father in concentration camp Buchenwald. Instead of seeking revenge the film shows how Buergenthal got over negative feelings he had by holding on to the rule of law. He emigrated to the U.S. in the aftermath of the war and built up a career in international law. Buergenthal is considered to be one of the first professors to establish International Human Rights Law. Next to teaching at George Washington Law School in Washington D.C. he worked at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and also served as a judge at the International Court of Justice until 2010. His dissenting opinion on the ICJ Ruling on Israel’s Security Wall decision is well known, especially due to his criticism of the Israeli settlements in Palestine. 

Buergenthal remembers that the Nuremberg Trials and especially the courtroom in Nuremberg stand for the day that a certain amount of justice was done for him and other victims of the WWII. It is an important principle today that people who commit international crimes are tried and convicted. This principle was first established in Nuremberg, which is one of the reasons why the International Nuremberg Principles Academy is placed in the city.

The International Nuremberg Principles Academy is a foundation that was established by the German government, the free state of Bavaria, and the city of Nuremberg. The aim of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy is to promote the application of international criminal law and the fight against impunity for core international crimes through capacity building, research, but also international conferences organized in Nuremberg. Moreover, students from all over the world come together once a year in the historic courtroom, where the Nuremberg Trials were conducted, to meet for the Nuremberg Moot Court. On the basis of the Academy lie the principles established during the Nuremberg Trials (1945-46), which are still applied in international criminal law today. It is the aim of the Academy to contribute to the development of international criminal law.