Masters week – The Development of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide as Criminal Offenses during the Nuremberg Trials

Date: 25 April 2022
Time: 12:30-13:30
Venue: HF Library


In this Master’s Week seminar Dorothee Alberts (LawTransform) will present her thesis which studies the American politics and the legal debate prior to the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg after World War II. One of the key topics is the evolution of international law due to the International Military Tribunal. This is closely linked to the question of the Tribunal’s legality, its possible character as a precedent, as well as occurring issues with the legal principle of Nulla poena sine lege. Central to this is the contemporary debate about the newly defined criminal offenses of ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’. Here it is important to have a look at Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin, both of which are considered to be the “fathers“ of today’s understanding of these crimes. Their opposing understanding of the victim either being defined as an individual or a whole group of people is central to the development of these two criminal offenses. A key question is why only the criminal offense of crimes against humanity found its place in the charge against the main accused at the International Military Tribunal, whereas it was only in the subsequent trials that the international crime of genocide was debated. Not only the political but also the historical developments on the eve of the International Military Tribunal give answers, but also leave us with even more questions.

Dorothee’s presentation will be followed by a discussion with Hanne Sophie Greve (Gulating Lagmannsrett). Moderated by Siri Gloppen (UiB/LawTransform).

Dorothee Alberts has been an intern at LawTransform since August 2021. She is part of the team organising the seminar series of Transitional Justice in Norway and Beyond. Before coming to Norway, Dorothee majored in History and German Studies at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

Hanne Sophie Greve is a judge at the Gulating Court of Appeal in Bergen, and is a former judge in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. She holds a dr.juris from the University of Bergen. Greve has been awarded the Fritt Ord Award for her long-lasting efforts towards human rights, refugees and victims of war.

Photo: US National Archives via Flickr (Nuremberg Trials. Looking down on defendants’ dock, ca. 1945-46. (WWII War Crimes Records). Exact Date Shot Unknown NARA FILE #: 238-NT-592 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1296)