Our purpose: Promoting peace through criminal justice – preventing crimes of aggression
Through the United Nations Charter, States have expressed their commitment “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. They have agreed to renounce the illegal threat or use of force, and to settle their disputes “by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered”. States have the legal duty to abide by this commitment and the UN Security Council has the primary responsibility to enforce it.The Nuremberg Trials made it clear that criminal justice also has an important role to play for the promotion of peace and the deterrence of acts of aggression – though it remained limited and theoretical for many decades thereafter. With the 2010 Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, States Parties created a new mechanism to enforce the most important rule of international law: the prohibition of the illegal use of force under the United Nations Charter. This website is dedicated to making accountability a reality.
Statement Honoring the Legacy of Benjamin B. Ferencz: The Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression is deeply saddened to report that the Institute’s co-founder and President Emeritus Benjamin B. Ferencz died on April 7, 2023, at the age of 103. He was a tireless advocate for international criminal justice and the last living prosecutor from the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Only recently, he received a US Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his service to the United States and the international community.
Born on March 11, 1920, in Transylvania, now modern day Romania, he soon fled from anti-Semitic persecution together with his parents and emigrated to the United States. Ben grew up in New York City, and in 1940, was awarded a scholarship to Harvard Law School where he graduated with honors.
After the onset of World War II, Ben enlisted in the United States Army in 1943, and joined an anti-aircraft artillery battalion preparing for the liberation of France. He fought in most of the major campaigns in Europe.
As Nazi atrocities were being uncovered, Ben was transferred to a newly created War Crimes Branch of the U.S. Army to gather evidence of war crimes that could be used to prosecute those responsible. Ben documented the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany, visiting concentration camps as they were liberated.
After the war, Ben became Chief Prosecutor for the United States in The Einsatzgruppen Case, which the Associated Press called “the biggest murder trial in history.” Twenty-two defendants were charged with murdering over a million people. He was only twenty-seven years old. It was his first case.
All of the defendants were convicted. Thirteen were sentenced to death. The verdict was hailed as a great success for the prosecution. Ben’s primary objective had been to establish a legal precedent that would encourage a more humane and secure world in the future.
Since the 1970s, Ben worked tirelessly to promote the development of international mechanisms to outlaw and punish crimes under international law, with a particular focus on the need to prosecute the crime of aggression (the leaders responsible for aggressive war-making). To this end, he published several books, such as “Defining International Aggression – The Search for World Peace” in 1975, the two-volume documentary history “An International Criminal Court-A Step Toward World Peace” in 1980, and two-volume book Enforcing International Law-A Way to World Peace in 1983.
With the end of the Cold War, the international community started to discuss the possibility of establishing an international criminal court in the 1990s. Active from the beginning, Ben participated in the Preparatory Commission sessions for the International Criminal Court, monitoring and making available his expertise on current efforts to define aggression. His efforts contributed to the establishment of the International Criminal Court and to the recognition of aggression within the ICC’s Rome Statute as an international crime.
Ben continued to mobilize support for the International Criminal Court, working tirelessly as part of the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression to conclude the definition of the ICC’s crime of aggression and conditions for the ICC’s exercise of jurisdiction over the crime.
Throughout his work, Ben optimistically championed the goal of replacing the “rule of force with the rule of law.” He truly lived his main message “never give up” and gave speeches throughout the world until his death to promote international justice and the rule of law.
Ben will be sorely missed but his inspiration will live on. The Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression (co-founded by Ben’s son, Donald M. Ferencz) is deeply indebted to him for leaving behind such a rich legacy, and being such a kind and caring person, as well as an inspirational figure, to so many of its members. Above all, the Global Institute, in his memory, vows to continue to “never give up” until the crime of aggression can be more comprehensively prosecuted and the world can become a safer place.
UN General Assembly calls for immediate end to war in Ukraine: On 23 February 2023, hours before the conflict entered its second year, the UN General Assembly adopted by majority vote a resolution calling for an end to the war. 141 States voted in favor of the resolution. This is the third resolution in response to the war in Ukraine with a similarly strong majority vote.
For details, see here and:
Paragraph 9: “Emphasizes the need to ensure accountability for the most serious crimes under international law committed on the territory of Ukraine through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the national or international level, and ensure justice for all victims and the prevention of future crimes”
Congressional Gold Medal for Benjamin Ferencz: President Emeritus of the Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression, Benjamin Ferencz, is to receive a US Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his service to the United States and the international community during the post-World War II Nuremberg trials and his lifelong advocacy for international criminal justice and the rule of law. The bill to grant him the award enjoyed the support of 296 US House cosponsors and 81 US Senate cosponsors.
The bill states:
(9) Since the 1970s, Ben has worked tirelessly to promote development of international mechanisms to outlaw and punish aggressive war and the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. His efforts contributed to the establishment of the International Criminal Court and to the recognition of aggression as an international crime.
(10) Ben is a tireless advocate for international criminal justice and the conviction that the rule of law offers the world a sustainable path to stem conflict and reach peaceful conclusions to geopolitical disputes. His unwavering goal has been “to establish a legal precedent that would encourage a more humane and secure world in the future”.
Resolution by the French Assemblée Nationale: On 30 November 2022, the French Parliament adopted a resolution in which it strongly condemns the Russian crime of aggression committed against Ukraine, calls on the EU and its Member States to support the investigations of the ICC and supports the idea of having criminal trials before an ad hoc tribunal if necessary. For the resolution, see here.
Statement by the President of the European Commission: On 30 November 2022, the President of the European Commission von der Leyen proposed to set up a specialised court, backed by the United Nations, to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression. For the full statement, see here.
Statement of the Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression: States Parties are called upon to remove the restrictions on the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.
For the full statement, see here.
Acknowledgment by the UN General Assembly: On 2 November 2022, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution which recalls, for the first time, the activated jurisdiction of the ICC over the crime of aggression as well as the competence of the UN Security Council to enable the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over all four crimes under the Rome Statute.
Peru becomes 44th State to ratify Kampala amendments: On 14 October 2022, Peru deposited its instrument of ratification of the Kampala amendments, becoming the 44th State to ratify the amendments on the crime of aggression.