Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s video address to the International Scientific and Practical Forum, “Lessons from Nuremberg: The Impact of the Nuremberg Process on the Modern World Order,” Moscow, November 20, 2020
The Nuremberg Tribunal opened 75 years ago today. It passed a harsh sentence upon the main Nazi war criminals. Unambiguous and indisputable legal definitions with regard to Nazism were made after the Third Reich was defeated in the war. As the chief Soviet prosecutor at the trials Roman Rudenko noted, “in the person of the defendants, we are judging not only them, but also the criminal institutions and organisations created by them, the misanthropic theories and ideas that they spread in order to carry out their long-planned crimes against peace and humanity.”
Back in 1943, the allied powers of the anti-Nazi coalition declared the importance of retribution for the Nazis’ bloody atrocities. The Moscow Declaration released by the leaders of the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States on the Nazis’ responsibility for their atrocities mentioned, for the first time, the plan to jointly decide on ways to punish the main criminals. These ideas were further expanded in the London Agreement of 1945 and the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter.
The Nuremberg Trials became a platform for a deep and comprehensive understanding – legal and ideological – of the tragedy of WWII and also a way to look into the future through affirmation of the ideals of humanism and awareness of the reasons that led to their total rejection.
The role of the Tribunal in shaping modern international legal architecture cannot be overestimated. The Nuremberg Principles formed the basis for the norms covering the most heinous international crimes. The preparation, planning, unleashing and waging of a war of aggression were qualified as such. The spirit and letter of the legal process became the embodiment of hopes for justice, respect for the value of human life and dignity. On October 24, 1946 – exactly one year after the UN Charter entered into force – the first UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie, spoke in favour of the Nuremberg rulings becoming a permanent part of international law. In December 1946, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a special resolution which confirmed the international legal principles recognised by the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter.
It is no coincidence that at the very first stages of forming the post-war world order, the UN members paid so much attention to Nuremberg. “To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” was possible only through a complete understanding of how and why the horrors of World War II became possible. The Tribunal’s verdict was immediately perceived by the UN as a legal foundation of world order. Today, it continues to serve as an important aid in strengthening global security and remains a warning against repeating the tragic mistakes of the past.
Nuremberg’s legacy was widely used by national judicial systems. The verdicts had a great influence on Soviet criminal legislation and procedure. To be more precise, the influence was reciprocal. The open trials of the Nazis and their accomplices that took place in our country in 1943-1949 confirm this.
The Nuremberg Trials – an example of international criminal justice – proved that justice can be achieved with a professional approach based on broad interstate cooperation, consent and mutual respect.
Clearly, the Nuremberg Tribunal’s legacy is not limited to law, but has enormous political, moral and educational value. A strong vaccination against the revival of Nazism in all its forms and manifestations was made 75 years ago. Unfortunately, the immunity to the brown plague that was developed in Nuremberg has seriously worn off in some European countries. Russia will continue to vigorously and consistently oppose any attempts to falsify history, to glorify Nazi criminals and their henchmen, and to oppose the revision of the internationally recognised outcomes of World War II, including the Nuremberg rulings. The overwhelming majority of the international community members agree with us in this regard.
We will continue to work to protect the timeless values that underlie the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter and the UN Charter, and the entire modern world order. A special solemn UN General Assembly session dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, which will take place on December 1, in accordance with the General Assembly’s resolution recently adopted by consensus on Russia’s initiative, will be a landmark event.
Representatives of the research community, professors of higher educational institutions and students are attending our forum. Your role in promoting the truth about Nuremberg is important today. Research in this area continues to be fully relevant. I’m convinced that your discussions will provide rich material for this work.
I wish you every success.