Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal

Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal. Adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations, 1950.

Introductory note: Under General Assembly Resolution 177 (II), paragraph (a), the International Law Commission was directed to "formulate the principles of international law recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal." In the course of the consideration of this subject, the question arose as to whether or not the Commission should ascertain to what extent the principles contained in the Charter and judgment constituted principles of international law. The conclusion was that since the Nuremberg Principles had been affirmed by the General Assembly, the task entrusted to the Commission was not to express any appreciation of these principles as principles of international law but merely to formulate them. The text below was adopted by the Commission at its second session. The Report of the Commission also contains commentaries on the principles (see Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1950, Vol. II, pp. 374-378).

English Text published in Report of the International Law Commission Covering its Second Session, 5 June - 29 July 1950, Document A/1316, pp. 11-14.

Principle I

Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.

Principle II

The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Principle III

The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Principle IV

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle V

Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.

Principle Vl

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

  1. Crimes against peace:
    1. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
    2. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
  2. War crimes:
    Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
  3. Crimes against humanity:
    Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principle VII

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.


For the Charter of the International Military Tribunal (a.k.a. the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal), from which the above principles were taken, see:

The last includes indictments and sentences. 22 Nazis were indicted, of which three were acquitted. Of the other 19, four were sentenced to imprisonment for 10-20 years, three were sentenced to imprisonment for life and twelve were sentenced to death by hanging.

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