Journal Article

Hersch Lauterpacht and the Development of International Criminal Law

Martti Koskenniemi

in Journal of International Criminal Justice

Volume 2, issue 3, pages 810-825
Published in print September 2004 | ISSN: 1478-1387
Published online September 2004 | e-ISSN: 1478-1395 | DOI:
Hersch Lauterpacht and the Development of International Criminal Law

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Hersch Lauterpacht (1897–1960) was arguably the last century’s most influential international lawyer. His work was based on an attack on sovereignty and embraced the domestic analogy – the view that there was no good reason to differentiate between the legal (and moral) principles applicable in the domestic and the international realm. This applied likewise (and perhaps above all) to principles of criminal responsibility. From 1940 onwards, Lauterpacht argued that the defence of superior orders was no longer good law – a view that found its way eventually to the British Military Manual. In 1944, he published the first article on the coming war-crimes trial. Lauterpacht was also instrumental in the insertion of the notion of ‘crimes against humanity’ in the London Charter. He went to Nuremberg and parts of the speeches of the British Special Prosecutor, Hartley (later Lord) Shawcross, came from his pen. Lauterpacht’s writings embody much of the ethos of present-day international criminal law. Their strengths and weaknesses continue to account for much of the debate over the politics of war-crime trials today.

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Subjects: Criminal Law ; International Law

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