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Letters for Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Judgment at Nuremberg and the Ukraine war

The news is full of demands for a Nuremberg-type trial of Russia’s Vladimir Putin for “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” The Hague International Court is available.

In ancient times the object of war was to kill the leader. As an example, in 331 B.C. at Arbela, Alexander with about 47,000 men faced Darius III of Persia with maybe 1,000,000 men. Alexander won by attacking Darius in his carriage in the middle of the Persian battle line. Darius ran, the Persian army ran. Darius died. The Persian empire ended.

In modern times, revolutionaries have killed leaders. During the French Revolution, King Louis XVI was guillotined by French civilians.

In World War II, Adolf Hitler shot himself in his bunker in April 1945. Britain, France, Russia, the U.S, the Allies, won and wanted to punish Nazis. Britain wanted summary execution, Russia a show trial, and the U.S. a “due-process trial.”

Twenty-four Nazi leaders were charged with crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

American law and British law are statutory or common law. Common law is the law made by prior precedents. In the case of crimes against humanity, the precedent the tribunal used came from a 1915 declaration the Allies made where they protested Armenian genocide of people living peacefully in Anatolia, Turkey. The Ottoman Empire massacred 1,000,000 Armenians during World War I.

The Allies created the Nuremberg law in 1945. It was the first time a trial would be conducted to condemn losers. There is a legal doctrine that judges could not judge “acts of another sovereign state or sovereign national done within its borders.” The Allies disregarded rules that prevented a conviction.

What is the difference between war crimes and crimes against humanity? War crimes are isolated crimes committed by soldiers in time of war. A crime against humanity is a systematic policy of a sovereign state to commit crimes like genocide, directed against civilians, whether in peace or war.

On May 25, 1993, the U.N. adopted Resolution 827 to try Yugoslavian war criminals for genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of the customs of law. The Yugoslav courts would not try anybody. The International Court at the Hague, Netherlands, tried the accused. 161 defendants were indicted. The trials went on for 13 years as criminals were slowly caught. The Nuremberg trials lasted 11 months.

After surrender of Germany in May 1945, it was easy to round up and try 24 defendants because Germany gave up “unconditionally.” The mechanism for trial at Nuremberg was ad hoc, made-up as you went. The Hague trials were conducted based on procedures set forth in a U.N. resolution.

In 2022, Putin is safe in Moscow. How do you get him for his crimes? Hitler tried to get Stalin and his army lost millions of men. A Nuremberg court does not exist. There is a court at the Hague, but I believe to try Putin and/or his cronies you need a U.N. resolution to do so. Maybe the only way to deal with Putin for his crimes is to seek an assassin, bomb the Kremlin, cause a Russian revolution or hope he dies of natural causes.

If Putin could be brought before the Hague court, the court could use precedents from the Nuremberg trials. The charges, procedure, rights of defendants require a U.N. resolution.

The Nuremberg trials were created by winners. In 2022, America would need unconditional victory and a U.N resolution to bring Putin to the Hague Court.


William J. Fernandez is a retired judge and Kapa‘a resident.

On divesting from the fossil-fuel industry

If you have installed a solar water heater or you are riding the bus, recycling, consuming less, planting trees or cutting meat out of your diet, you are taking personal responsibility for reducing your own carbon footprint. And yet your bank, retirement fund, IRA or other investments may be countering all your good efforts with their investing your money in fossil fuel.

With Congress in a stalemate and greenhouse-gas emissions continuing to rise, there is movement and reason for hope with the divestment campaign. Divestment is moving money away from the fossil-fuel industry and investing in climate solutions which are creating new, safer, better-paying skilled jobs. The biggest block to climate action is the fossil-fuel companies themselves. All institutions, as well as individuals, need to stop supporting their destructive practices by no longer financially investing in fossil-fuel companies. Besides, fiscally, the fossil-fuel industry is becoming an unstable investment with a poor future.

Ten years agom, students in universities around the country started demanding their schools’ rich endowments quit investing in fossil fuels. helped coordinate the divestment movement, and faith groups soon joined the universities that were divesting. Before long the movement expanded to pension funds, hospitals, cities and philanthropic foundations. In 2014 the movement went global when Bishop Desmond Tutu spoke boldly at the World Summit, calling for all to divest from fossil fuel and invest in climate solutions. The demands from the divest/invest campaign also include investing a minimum of 5% of assets in climate solutions.

The pressure is now on banks, insurers, investors and other financial institutions to divest. Financial firms, with more than $8 trillion in combined assets, have already divested their fossil-fuel holdings.

Some 71 countries have divest/invest campaigns, and $40 trillion has been pledged for divestment. It has become one of the most-successful campaigns in history. In 2016, Peabody, the world’s largest coal company, listed divestment as one of the main reasons they went out of business. The value and credibility of the fossil-fuel industry has plummeted in recent years and, for the first time, in the 2020 presidential election, the majority of the candidates refused to take money from fossil-fuel companies.

A new campaign from is pushing the Federal Reserve to divest from fossil fuel. The first action is to fill the vacant Federal Reserve Board seats with climate-conscience people.

Most often, people do not know where their bank, IRA or pension fund has invested their money. There are options and resources, such as banking with a local credit union, which invests in the local economy. Or online bank/investors such as Aspiration, Green Century and Amalgamated that have climate-friendly, socially responsible options and transparency. Even big investment firms such as BlackRock and Vanguard, after public demand, are now offering fossil-free options as well. You can use the site to see the rate of your investment. Or helps you set up your own portfolio to fit your values.

Unfortunately, our Hawai‘i Employee Retirement System still has funds invested in fossil fuels and about $181 million invested in the timber industry, which means continuing destructive deforestation.

ERS leadership has opposed legislative efforts to divest, saying they prefer “engagement” versus divestment. Engagement, as employed by shareholder activists to unseat Exxon board members, can be effective when aggressively pursued. Still, fossil-fuel investments are a risk for both investors and the planet now, and that is why ERS is being pushed to divest from these companies. Divestment bills were introduced this legislative session in the state House and Senate, but both died without hearings.


Laurel Brier is with the Kaua‘i Climate Action Coalition, which meets via Zoom the third Monday of the month. Email to join or for more information. Free educational forums are held the second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. via Zoom. March 9 will be “Composting 1,000,000 Tons of Sewage Sludge and Green Waste: A Working Model from Maui.” For more information, go to ZeroWasteKauai FaceBook page or register at /Kauaicompostsolution.
Source: The Garden Island

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