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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State Socialism and the Development of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law during the Cold War

by Raluca Grosescu

at the workshop Socialist Experts, Humanitarianism, and the Latin American Cold War Conflicts, Andhes University, Bogota, 1-3 August, 2017.

Abstract

This paper examines 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 challenges the dominant scholarship that portray the Socialist Bloc as merely a roadblock to progress of international justice and humanitarianism and posits an alternative narrative: the socialist world in fact played a vital role for the emergence and consolidation of new ICL and IHL norms after 1945 and its participation was an essential element in the advancement of these fields of law. The paper discusses the socialist engagements with the definition of the ‘crime of aggression’, 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 expansion of the Geneva Conventions to non-international conflicts, the non-applicability of statutory limitations to international crimes and the criminalization of apartheid under international law.

International Conference: State Socialism, Legal Experts and the Genesis of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law after 1945

conference_berlin_nov_2016_legal_expertsIn the history of international law, the socialist bloc has been generally relegated to the role of roadblock in fulfilling the ideals of Western liberalism. This conference seeks to question established narratives that have ignored or downplayed the role of state-socialist governments and legal experts in shaping the evolution of international criminal and humanitarian law after the end of the Second World War. With a geographic scope covering the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc, Africa, and China, the conference explores the socialist world’s doctrines and international engagements concerning the codification of different international crimes [including crimes against peace, the crimes of aggression, Apartheid, terrorism, slavery, narcotics trafficking and more], approaches to humanitarian intervention, and the relationship between state sovereignty and international law. The conference advances the idea that rather than simply block progress, socialist initiatives played a vital role in the production of norms and ideas that continue to be relevant for the current international criminal and humanitarian legal system.

See the brochure of the conference here.

International Conference “State Socialism, Legal Experts and the Genesis of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law after 1945”

International Conference
State Socialism, Legal Experts and the Genesis of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law after 1945
(Humboldt University of Berlin, November 24-26, 2016)
Call for Papers

In the history of international law, the socialist bloc has been generally relegated to the role of roadblock to the fulfillment of the ideals of Western liberalism. Scholars of international criminal law (ICL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) have often dismissed the contributions of socialist legal initiatives as little more than Cold War propaganda and thus irrelevant to understanding the historical evolution of judicial norms and the modern international system. The establishment of different international tribunals since the collapse of the Soviet Union has only reinforced the notion that the socialist world was little more than an impediment to progress. Nevertheless, the American-led global war on terror has done much to call into question Western commitment to the laws of war. Continue reading International Conference “State Socialism, Legal Experts and the Genesis of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law after 1945”