The term "laws of war" refers to the rules governing the
actual conduct of armed conflict. This idea that there actually exists
rules that govern war is a difficult concept to understand. The simple
act of war in and of itself seems to be in violation of an almost
universal law prohibiting one human being from killing another. But
during times of war murder of the enemy is allowed, which leads one to
the question, "if murder is permissible then what possible "laws of
war" could there be?" The answer to this question can be found in the
Charter established at the International Military Tribunals at
Nuremberg and Tokyo:
Crimes against Humanity: namely, murder, extermination,
enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against
any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on
political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in
connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal,
whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where
perpetrated. Leaders, organizers, instigators, and accomplices
participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or
conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for
all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.1 The
above excerpt comes form the Charter of the Tribunal Article 6 section
C, which makes it quite clear that in general the "laws of war" are
there to protect innocent civilians before and during war.
It seems to be a fair idea to have such rules governing armed
conflict in order to protect the civilians in the general location of
such a conflict. But, when the conflict is over, and if war crimes
have been committed, how then are criminals of war brought to justice?
The International Military Tribunals held after World War II in
Nuremberg on 20 November 1945 and in Tokyo on 3 May 1946 are excellent
examples of how such crimes of war are dealt with. (Roberts and Guelff
153-54) But, rather than elaborate on exact details of the Tribunals
of Nuremberg and Tokyo a more important matter must be dealt with.
What happens when alleged criminals of war are unable to be
apprehended and justly tried? Are they forgotten about, or are they
sought after such as other criminals are in order to serve justice?
What happens if these alleged violators are found residing somewhere
other than where their pursuers want to bring them to justice? How
does one go about legally obtaining the custody of one such suspect...