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Nuremberg Trials

A series of trials held in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1945–46, in which former Nazi leaders were indicted and tried as war criminals by the International Military Tribunal. The indictment lodged agains them contained four counts: (1) crimes against peace—i.e., the planning, initiating, and waging of wars of aggression in violation of international treatie and agreements; (2) crimes against humanity—i.e., exterminations, deportations, and genocide; (3) war crimes—i.e., violations of the laws of war; and (4) “a common plan or conspiracy to commit” the criminal acts listed in the first three counts. The authority of the International Military Tribunal to conduct these trials stemmed from the London Agreement of Aug. 8, 1945. In rendering the[ir] decisions, the tribunal rejected the major defenses offered by the defendants. First, it rejected the contention that only a state, and not individuals, could be found guilty of war crimes; the tribunal held that crimes of international law are committed by men and that only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced. Second, it rejected the argument that the trial and adjudication were ex post facto. The tribunal responded that such acts had been regarded as criminal prior to World War II.

Encyclopaedia Britannica