Will Putin Get His ‘Nuremberg Moment’?

As new crimes are committed, new laws must be written to punish them. When it comes to crimes committed by states like Putin’s Russia, who decides?

© Ben Jones/Heart Agency.

Interviewed in the Guardian in March 2022, the international lawyer Philippe Sands said that: ‘The world changed in 1945. It was a revolutionary moment. For the first time, states agreed that they were not absolutely sovereign, that they could not kill individuals or destroy groups.’ Sands called this the ‘Nuremberg moment’. In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, ‘Nuremberg’ has compelling significance. Vladimir Putin described the invasion as a ‘special military operation’; international lawyers characterise it as a ‘crime of aggression’ – a legal term inherited from Nuremberg. Sands and others, notably former British prime minister Gordon Brown, demanded, as the Daily Mail informed its readers: ‘a new Nuremberg trial to make Putin pay … Let him face the legacy of Nuremberg.’

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