Prevention of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity
The majority of individuals hold that crimes committed in war times should be punished. This claim may be justified in several ways. First of all, it may be argued that persons who have committed the crimes, and particularly the heads of states, deserve appropriate punishment because punishment is considered to be an appropriate response to moral atrocities (Wringe, 2006, p.159). There is no special moral significance of the fact that the crimes have been committed in the war times. Second approach claims that the war criminals should be punished because such punishment may prevent atrocities in future wars. This view may be designed using a consequentialist approach to the punishment. Third view states that the expressive function of punishment is the best justification of it (Wringe, 2006, p.160). According to this view, the punishment expresses particular messages and provides communication, and for this reason it is justified. The interrelation between punishment and prevention of crimes is hard to evaluate. Akhavan (2001) states that measuring the capacity of punishment in order to prevent criminal conduct is an elusive task, because a society is gripped by habitual violence and the deviant crimes. There is no evidence that when the heads of states are put for crimes against humanity and war crimes, the punishment would prevent the recurrence of these crimes in the future, although the punishment in this case carries out several functions, including providing an appropriate response to moral atrocities, and as communication to other heads of states, therefore the phenomenon of victor’s justice and the features of trial may make those who have committed the war crimes just more careful in covering up the evidence of their atrocities.
II. Discussing Victor’s Justice
Although the majority of individual consider that war criminals should be put under the punishment, more principled views to the idea of punishment for war crimes often appeal to the idea that such punishments would provide only victors’ justice rather than real justice. The phenomenon of victor’s justice is a complex one, however there is one concern playing a significant role which is that the punishment and trial of war criminals by international tribunals practically does not apply the impartial moral principles to individuals on both parties of conflicts. Instead it usually only inflicts the harsh treatment on few selected representatives of the losing side (Wringe, 2006, p.164).
This claim is based on the following facts. In the most wars both sides of the conflict commit atrocities. However, the analysis of war crimes trials shows that almost invariably the members of the losing side have been trialed and punished. For example, the men who ordered the firebombing of Dresden have not been found and have not stood under trial at Nuremberg alongside with Nazis. However, the actions and orders of those people breached the war crimes convention as much as the actions of people who were responsible for Nazi atrocities during the World War …