A friend in the Philippines sent us a long and detailed email discussion of the state of human rights and “rule of law” after just a week of President Duterte’s new way of doing business in the Philippines.
His note moved us to go back and look at what happened at the end of World War II both in Germany and Japan when the full extent of war crimes was found and understood.
One of Hitler’s favorite policemen was Adolf Eichmann.
Adolf Eichmann was put on trial in Israel in 1961.
He used this very clever defense:
I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty. . . . It was my misfortune to become entangled in these atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people. . . . Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office, and in addition, once the war started, there was also martial law. . . . I did not persecute Jews with avidity and passion. That is what the government did. . . . At that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it will also be demanded of the subordinate.”
This “I was only following orders defense has become widely known as the Nuremberg Defense.”
I lived in the Philippines during the martial law of the Marcos years. One time I saw a policeman shoot and kill a little boy who had stolen something from a tourist. The policeman beamed with pride as he retrieved the stolen item from the dead boys hands and gave it back to its owner.
After the Marcos years, it seemed to us that the Philippines and all Filipinos were in a better place.
So maybe now we should take just this humble moment to suggest that each and every person in the Philippines reflect for a moment upon what is going and to open a discussion with family, friends, co-workers and maybe even lawyers and clergy. We have always known Filipinos to do the right thing.
For now I am following the suggestion of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and praying for everyone during this difficult time in the Philippines.
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
The following is from Wikipedia:
Superior orders, often known as the Nuremberg defense, lawful orders or by the German phrase Befehl ist Befehl (“only following orders”, literally “an order is an order”), is a plea in a court of law that a person, whether a member of the armed forces or a civilian, not be held guilty for actions which were ordered by a superior officer or a public official.
One of the most noted uses of this plea, or defense, was by the accused in the 1945–46 Nuremberg Trials, such that it is also called the “Nuremberg defense”. The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the main victorious Allied forces afterWorld War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany. It was during these trials, under the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal which set them up, that the defense of superior orders was no longer considered enough to escape punishment; but merely enough to lessen punishment.
Historically, the plea of superior orders has been used both before and after the Nuremberg Trials, with a notable lack of consistency in various rulings.
Apart from the specific plea of superior orders, discussions about how the general concept of superior orders ought to be used, or ought not to be used, have taken place in various arguments, rulings and statutes that have not necessarily been part of “after the fact”war crimes trials, strictly speaking. Nevertheless, these discussions and related events help to explain the evolution of the specific plea of superior orders and the history of its usage.
On June 4, 1921, the legal doctrine of superior orders was used during the German Military Trials that took place after World War I: One of the most famous of these trials was the matter of Lieutenant Karl Neumann, who was a U-boat captain responsible for the sinking of the hospital ship the Dover Castle. Even though he frankly admitted to having sunk the ship, he stated that he had done so on the basis of orders supplied to him by the German Admiralty; and that being so, he could not be held liable for his actions. The Leipzig Supreme Court (then Germany’s supreme court) acquitted him, accepting the defense of superior orders as a grounds to escape criminal liability. Further, that very court had this to say in the matter of superior orders:
“… that all civilized nations recognize the principle that a subordinate is covered by the orders of his superiors.”
Many accused of war crimes were acquitted on a similar defense, creating immense dissatisfaction amongst the Allies. This has been thought to be one of the main causes for the specific removal of this defense in the August 8, 1945 London Charter of the International Military Tribunal. This removal has been attributed to the actions of Robert H. Jackson, a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who was appointed Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.
On October 8, 1945, Anton Dostler was the first German general to be tried for war crimes by a U.S. military tribunal at the Royal Palace in Caserta. He was accused of ordering the execution of 15 captured U.S. soldiers of Operation Ginny II in Italy in March 1944. He admitted to ordering the execution but said that he could not be held responsible because he was just following orders from his superiors. The execution of 15 U.S. prisoners of warin Italy ordered by Dostler was an implementation of Hitler‘s Commando Order of 1942 which required the immediate execution of all Allied commandos, whether in proper uniforms or not, without trial if apprehended by German forces. The tribunal rejected the defense of Superior Orders and found Dostler guilty of war crimes. He was sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad on December 1, 1945, in Aversa.
The Dostler case became a precedent for the principle, used in the Nuremberg Trials of German generals, officials, and Nazi leaders beginning in November 1945, that using Superior orders as a defense does not relieve officers from responsibility of carrying out illegal orders and their liability to be punished in court. This principle was codified in Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles, and similar principles were found in sections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
German General Anton Dostler just before his execution. The man on the right looks like a Catholic Chaplain in the U.S. Army.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST Funeral parlor workers lift the body of one of the two drug suspects who were killed in an alleged shootout with police in Barangay Bonuan Tondaligan in Dagupan City on Monday. RAY B.ZAMBRANO/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON
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