State Socialism and the Evolution of Post-War International Criminal and Humanitarian Law

by Raluca Grosescu

at Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena, 9 October 2017

The paper presented the contribution of Eastern European socialist governments and legal experts to the development of international criminal law (ICL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) during the Cold War. It discussed the socialist engagements with several ICL and IHL aspects: the definition of the ‘crime of aggression’ and of the linked charges of ‘crimes against peace’ and ‘common plan or conspiracy’ used against the Axis leaders at the post-war tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo; the efforts to expand the Geneva Conventions to non-international conflicts, and the criminalization of apartheid under international law. Finally, the paper discussed the role of state socialist experts in encoding the non-applicability of statutory limitations to international crimes. The paper argued that the socialist engagements with these fields were a combination of both progressive ideas (anti-fascism, anti-colonialism, and anti-Apartheid), and Realpolitik (the geopolitical competition with the West, expanding socialism in the Third World, and the primacy of defending state sovereignty non-interventionism in national affairs). It was a mixture that simultaneously generated new forms of international law, and hindered its advance and enforcement during the Cold War.

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