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"They are the lovers of law and order,
who observe the law when the government breaks it."
Henry David Thoreau
Many people in the peace movement believe that our society is facing a serious crisis with the endless war on terrorism declared by President George W. Bush and his stated intention to go to war against other nations he calls evil, because they are attempting to obtain nuclear weapons. The hypocrisy of this policy is rather obvious when one reaizes that the United States has more nuclear weapons than any other country by far with the lone exception of Russia, which has been greatly weakened and has reduced its military power. Because of the overwhelming horror of the danger of a nuclear war and this oppressive police state we are facing daily during the "war on terrorism," we who in good conscience cannot go along with these policies, which are not only immoral and insane but also illegal by international law, feel duty-bound to respond to the call of our conscience and stand up in an active way to the stupidity of these atrocious policies.
Some of these people believe that they are called by God to intervene nonviolently in the war preparations that could mean the end of the human race on Earth. In placing themselves between these horrible weapons and their intended use, these individuals are obeying their conscience and challenging the idolatry of a society which seems to worship military power. Often these people believe that the suffering in the world is increased by these policies not only because of killing and the danger of an active war but also because these war policies are robbing our society of resources it could be using to help the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the uneducated, the unemployed in this country and in the world.
Others through a study of our society's problems and the principles of law and justice as means to resolve conflicts nonviolently believe that the development, production, and deployment of genocidal weapons are in fact illegal, that the United States Constitution requires the courts to uphold treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate, that preparations for nuclear war are a conspiracy to commit mass murder, genocide, and perhaps even omnicide, the death of everyone. These individuals believe that we as citizens have an obligation in accordance with the Nuremberg Principles not to cooperate with the illegal actions of our government. Thus some have called these direct actions, which are intended to uphold the Nuremberg Principles and challenge the crimes of our government, Nuremberg Actions.
Whatever the reasons people may have for protesting, their support is welcome as long as they are committed to the use of nonviolence as outlined in the Nonviolence Guidelines. Many people believe for a variety of reasons relating to the control of our society by the corporate media and incumbent politicians who are corrupted by the iron triangle of the military-industrial-government complex, that the best thing we can do at this time in history to help save our civilization is to take our power back from our criminal government by acting directly rather than merely symbolically, as in free speech. From this point of view, only such self-sacrifice can hope to awaken the sleeping conscience of our materialistic society.
Thus instead of referring to these actions as civil disobedience, we now understand that we are acting to uphold the laws of God and international law when our government is involved in serious violations of them. (These legal theories will be explained more fully below in the section "International Law and Nuclear Weapons.") Thus we refer to these actions as civil obedience or divine obedience.
Nonviolent protests may take the form of seeming to violate minor laws and being placed under arrest. Affinity groups may walk onto a military base at the main gate or stop traffic in the road from entering a base or perhaps undertake more creative actions to raise people's awareness about these concerns. The reason these actions are not illegal is because they are justified by the circumstances-namely that we have a duty to attempt to stop crimes from being perpetrated and to stop an overwhelming danger which threatens our lives as well as others. A criminal conspiracy (the military) has no right to arrest people simply because they are attempting to point out to people that they are involved in a criminal conspiracy.
In a constitutional form of government, conflicts are supposed to be handled according to due process of the law. That means that when people appear to be violating the law, they are to be taken into custody and brought before a judge to determine if they were in fact guilty of a violation. However, we know from experience that sometimes police may beat people up or handle them roughly in making arrests. Nevertheless in most nonviolent demonstrations where the tone is peaceful, these are the exceptions rather than the common practice.
Those who actively protest and risk arrest must realize that they are going to be thrown into the legal system with all its complexity. During this process individuals are given many choices to make. By understanding different options and their probable consequences, people can make wiser choices.
"Whoever advises a leader according to the Way
opposes conquest by force of arms.
The use of force tends to rebound....
Violence is contrary to the Way.
Whatever is contrary to the Way will soon perish.
Weapons are tools of destruction hated by people.
Therefore followers of the Way never use them....
The best soldier is not violent.
The best fighter is not angry....
Those brave in killing will be killed.
Those brave in not killing will live....
For love wins all battles and is the strongest defense.
Heaven gives love to save and protect."
Those who decide to place themselves in a situation where arrest is likely need to prepare themselves carefully for the ordeal. In line with the Nonviolence Guidelines they should make sure that they are carrying no weapons and have no drugs or alcohol on their person. At least one person who is not risking arrest should know their names and pertinent information.
Once one has entered an arrest situation, it can occur at any time. However, there is often a warning given by the law enforcement officer; if so, this is usually the last opportunity to avoid arrest. At the time of arrest, one is usually handcuffed and asked to walk with the officer. Everyone has the choice to cooperate with the arresting officer or not. The extent of noncooperation is up to each individual. Some may go limp so that the officers must carry or drag the person. Those who do not cooperate with the arrest may be given the additional charge of resisting arrest, and they may suffer physical punishment, such as the use of pain holds designed to make a person cooperate. Noncooperation is a tactic that can be used at any time when in custody.
Police are not required to read one the Miranda rights unless they are going to ask questions about the alleged crime. Everyone has the right to remain silent. Remembering the details of the arrest may be helpful in a trial. Everyone has a right to a lawyer and can request one at any time.
Those arrested may be taken to a building or police station for booking. Sometimes people may be released before even being charged. At booking individuals are charged with a specific violation. There are two primary legal systems in this country-the state and the federal government. If the process continues, one will find oneself in one system or the other. In nonviolent protests in which property damage is avoided, the charges are almost always a misdemeanor (state) or a petty offense (federal). The maximum possible sentence is usually either six months and a $500 fine or sometimes one year and a $1000 fine. During booking one is usually asked for information, such as name, address, telephone, social security number, birth date, etc. Those who refuse to give their names may be held longer than others.
Often they ask one to sign a citation promising to appear in court on a specific date, or sometimes they may require bail money before releasing one. Those who sign the citation or pay the bail will be released. Those who refuse to sign or pay the bail may be held in jail or they may be released anyway. If a person remains in custody, arraignment usually occurs fairly soon, within a few days. This is a way of speeding up the whole process and pressuring the system to release people without bail or promises to appear. If people stay in jail, men and women are usually separated.
As Benjamin Franklin once said of the patriots who were declaring their independence from Britain, "We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." This conveys the idea of solidarity. The more people can "hang together" the stronger is their political power in relation to the system. Jails are designed to make people feel powerless and at the mercy of the system. However, when a group works together, they can exert a much greater leverage on that system, especially if it is a jail system already over-crowded and over-burdened or a government already hugely in debt and in need of money to cover its law-enforcement expenses.
Thus in the past many peace activists have refused to pay bail or fines to the system which is oppressing them. This is not only to be in solidarity with each other but also to be in solidarity with all the poor people who cannot afford to buy their way out of jail. In California these tactics have been rather successful in avoiding bail and fines and also long sentences. Of course, the numbers are a major factor in solidarity, but the principles remain the same; and many activists refuse to pay on principle even if they must suffer for it alone. It has been suggested that individuals who feel they cannot spend time in jail might want to consider contributing money to the peace movement and doing support work instead of getting arrested in a symbolic protest and paying money to the government.
In addition to refusing to pay bail or a fine, another common solidarity issue is to refuse to accept probation. This is done so that the movement can grow and not have future actions stifled by the threats of probation revocation. With probation most of the sentence is usually suspended, but if the person is convicted again during the probation then the suspended jail time can be given from the past action in addition to the new one.
The tactics of refusing to pay a fine or accept probation leave the judge with what he or she often considers less satisfactory choices. All that is really left is community service or time in jail. Community service is becoming more popular, but it still does not give the government back any of the money it spent on law enforcement and courts. Also if community service is refused or not considered serious enough, then the only alternative is jail, which costs the government even more money. Thus the willingness of activists to go to jail can put pressure on the government far beyond the numbers involved could exert in just about any other nonviolent way.
Other solidarity goals may include the objective that past offenders get the same punishment as new offenders, although this can be difficult to achieve. Additional tactics for achieving this or to add pressure to the government to change its policies, can be to plead not guilty and have trials or to engage in various forms of noncooperation while in jail. These may include fasting, not giving information, singing, refusing to walk or get dressed, etc
Arraignment is when one is formally charged in court before a judge by a prosecuting attorney. The judge will ask, "How do you plead to this charge?" The defendant has four possible pleas. Both guilty and no contest are treated as a guilty plea, but by saying that one does not contest the charges one is not actually admitting any guilt. The no contest plea cannot be used as evidence of wrongdoing in a civil suit. The judge usually accepts the no contest plea as though it were a guilty plea. These pleas are then usually followed by sentencing. At this point one has the opportunity to speak as to why one did it, what mitigating circumstances apply, and what sentence might be appropriate. This time for elocution is also an opportunity to express one's feelings or religious beliefs or even make a political speech.
The other two pleas are not guilty and what is called a creative plea, which is simply to say nothing or anything one wishes, which will be treated as a not guilty plea. If it is not a very brief statement, one can expect to be cut off by the judge. The judge is required to enter a not guilty plea unless the defendant clearly pleads either guilty or no contest. As long as one pleads not guilty, they must either proceed with a trial or drop the charges.
After a not guilty plea the judge usually releases the defendants
on their own recognizance (OR). However, bail may be required.
Those who do not pay bail or sign a bail bond have to stay in
jail until the trial.
"The time has come, or is about to come,
when only large-scale civil disobedience,
which should be nonviolent,
can save the populations from the universal death
which their governments are preparing for them."
In the federal system one is usually arraigned before a federal magistrate. Magistrates have been appointed, because there are not enough federal judges to handle all of the cases. One has a right to a trial before a federal judge, although one can accept the magistrate as a presiding judge. Because of a Supreme Court ruling, the federal government does not give jury trials on petty offenses where the maximum sentence is six months or less even though the U.S. Constitution states twice that all criminal trials are to be by jury. If one is found guilty by a magistrate and decides to appeal, it is then heard by the federal judge. However, if one has been found guilty by the judge, the first appeal goes to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Appeal from the Circuit Court would go to the U.S. Supreme Court, though they do not have to hear the case. Other than appeal, the trial before a magistrate or a federal judge will be similar.
In most states the right to trial by a jury is granted. In jury selection the lawyers have the right to question prospective jurors and have individuals dismissed if the judge agrees that they cannot be fair. In addition each side is given a certain number of peremptory challenges which can be used to dismiss individual jurors without giving any reason at all. In a jury trial the judge still makes all rulings on questions of law and instructs the jury as to what the law is. The judge will not allow the jury to hear evidence or testimony that is ruled irrelevant or inadmissible. However, the final verdict and interpretation of the evidence and facts are decided by the jury and must be (in most states) unanimous (consensus), or else it is declared a mistrial because of a hung jury. After a mistrial, defendants may or may not be tried again by a new jury. In other respects a jury trial and a bench or court trial tend to be fairly similar. Since a single judge gives the verdict in a bench trial, there is no chance for a hung jury; it will be either not guilty or guilty.
Everyone has the right to be represented by a lawyer. One can hire a lawyer of one's own choosing. Sometimes several defendants are tried to together and may share the same lawyer. If one is too poor to hire a lawyer, the court will appoint a public defender if one requests it. As long as one is mentally competent, one has the right to represent oneself (pro se or pro per) and be one's own lawyer. This gives one all the privileges of the lawyer in the courtroom, but one is still expected to follow the proper procedures and little allowance may be made for the lack of legal training and knowledge. However, in political trials activists often find that they can represent their concerns better than a lawyer who is unfamiliar with their issues.
There may be a pre-trial hearing for motions sometime between arraignment and the trial date, but if neither side has submitted a motion, it may be canceled. After the jury has been selected in a state trial, the state and federal trial formats are similar.
The prosecuting attorney begins with an opening statement which presents a summary of the case and the evidence in verbal form. Then the lawyer for the defendant may make an opening statement or wait until the prosecution has presented their witnesses. However, in federal court the judge may insist that the defense's opening statement be given immediately after the prosecution's or not at all. The opening statement is supposed to focus on what the evidence will show. If the opening wanders beyond that subject, the judge may interrupt. If the judge believes the evidence being discussed is irrelevant, the attorney may argue a theory of defense to show that it is relevant. This is called an offer of proof. If there is a jury, they will be dismissed as the judge listens to this argument and then rules as to whether that evidence and testimony will be allowed. This is where the defense of necessity and international law may be argued and then probably will be prohibited. Sometimes attorneys never mention this defense in the opening, but it comes up during the questioning of witnesses. At that point if the prosecution or the judge objects, the jury may be removed and the offer of proof presented and ruled on. One is allowed to call expert witnesses to help persuade the judge of the validity of the theory of defense, but they will not be heard by the jury unless the evidence is ruled admissible.
Following the opening statement, the prosecution begins to call their witnesses and question them on the stand. During direct examination of a witness on one's own side, attorneys are not allowed to ask leading questions. Questions must be asked in such a way as not to suggest what the answer ought to be. After the prosecutor has questioned each witness, the defense is allowed to cross-exam them on the issues and evidence that has been presented. During cross-examination of opposing witnesses, attorneys are allowed to ask leading questions, such as "Isn't it true that ..." or "Wouldn't it be fair to say that ..." Cross-examination is an opportunity to expose the errors or confusion or even lack of credibility of witnesses by pointing out contradictions or weaknesses in their testimony. Once the prosecution has presented all their witnesses and physical evidence, then they rest. At this point the defense often presents a motion for dismissal because of lack of evidence. This is routinely denied.
Next the defense calls their witnesses and presents evidence. They have the right to subpoena witnesses and compel them to testify if their testimony is relevant to the case. Defendants have a right to remain silent and are not required to present any defense whatsoever and still may be found not guilty. This is because the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove that someone committed an illegal act beyond a reasonable doubt or to a moral certainty. Though defendants are not required to testify, activists usually do choose to testify in order to tell their story of what they did and why they did it. Of course, the prosecution then has the right to cross-examine. Sometimes also either side may have additional questions after cross-examination in what is called re-direct; again leading questions are still not allowed in re-direct. Re-direct may be followed by re-cross. Defendants who are representing themselves pro se usually are allowed to testify in a narrative way, instead of trying to ask themselves questions. This can make it easier to get in some points before objection is heard from the prosecutor or before the judge interrupts. Pro se defendants may gain some advantage, because they can hardly be expected to know all the legal rules; but on the other hand, their lack of knowledge can be a disadvantage in keeping the prosecution honest also.
After the defense has presented their witnesses, the trial proceeds to closing arguments. Because the prosecution has the burden of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt, they are usually given the first and last speech in the closing. Attorneys are given most leeway in their closing arguments. Rarely is an objection heard from the other side, and the judge is usually reluctant to interrupt a closing argument. One is allowed to wax eloquent and even quote from books. However, one should keep in mind the patience and forbearance of the judge and jury. Opening and closing arguments are opportunities to speak directly to the jury or judge. A pro se defendant thus has great latitude in attempting to move the jury or judge in this speech. To be effective the closing argument needs to rebut the arguments and case presented by the prosecution and do it in such a way that the rebuttal will still stand even after the prosecution presents their last rebuttal.
Having heard the closing arguments, the judge will verbally instruct the jury as to their duty in deliberation and will read and interpret the relevant laws for them. The jury will then retire to a private room to deliberate until they reach a verdict. In a bench trial the judge will give the verdict. If the verdict is not guilty defendants are free to go out and celebrate. If the verdict is guilty, the jury will be dismissed before the sentencing. As with no contest and guilty pleas, defendants who have been found guilty have the right of elocution prior to the passing of sentence. At this time the defendants may indicate their preferences and circumstances in relation to punishment. It is another opportunity to give a speech to the judge.
Defendants who have been sentenced may be taken into custody. If an appeal is going to be filed, one can ask that the sentence be suspended until the appeal is decided.
Those who go to jail for misdemeanors are usually housed in local facilities. State and federal prisons are generally designed for those who are serving a year or more. The federal government often pays local facilities to keep their prisoners. Activists are often introduced to jails at the time of arrest, and the sentence is just more of the same.
Prisoners are carefully searched, often asked to strip naked and usually given jail clothes. Some facilities spray new inmates for vermin. Since most jails in the United States are very overcrowded, many are under court orders to release people before the full period of their sentence. Days spent in jail at the time of arrest are usually counted. Men and women are separated. Basically the state provides room and board, and inmates have much free time within their restricted areas. One can usually get books, sometimes from the outside also, writing or drawing materials. For many the worst aspect is the noise and especially the television in the day room. Sometimes inmates are asked to work. There is an international tradition that political prisoners are not required to work, but since local authorities may not consider protestors political prisoners, one may face disciplinary confinement for refusing to work. However, often only trustees work, and it is considered a privilege to gain a few small freedoms. Inmates may receive and send mail and also have visitors according to the routine of the jail. Money is placed in a commissary account, and certain items such as snack food, paper, pencils, stamps, envelopes, toilet items, or cigarettes may be purchased.
For many, jail can be a time of deep reflection on one's life and society. One often meets interesting people who for one reason or another do not conform to our society's customs. For some, jail may be a difficult experience. As with anything, one's own attitude is a major factor in determining the value of the experience. Some even believe that given the horrible policies of our government it is the only appropriate place to be.
"Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of humanity.
It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction
devised by human ingenuity....
If the mad race for armaments continues,
it is bound to result in a slaughter
such as has never occurred in history.
If there is a victor left, the very victory will be
a living death for the nation that emerges victorious.
There is no escape from the impending doom
save through a bold and unconditional acceptance
of the nonviolent method with all its glorious implications."
"The survival of democracy depends on the renunciation of violence
and the development of nonviolent means
to combat evil and advance the good....
Only the nonviolent can apply therapy to the violent."
A. J. Muste
In challenging the immoral policies of our government many people are turning to the defense of necessity and international law, because they believe that the U.S. Government is the one who is committing criminal acts. These two defenses which can be used in combination with each other are called affirmative or justification defenses, because instead of merely attempting to deny that one did the minor violation, they are arguing that emergency circumstances justified the seeming violation of a minor law in order to attempt to stop a greater criminal act or to prevent a serious danger from occurring.
As affirmative defenses, the defense must undertake the obligation of proving that a reasonable person would believe each of the five elements that would justify such behavior. For judges to allow any evidence based on these theories of defense, they must be convinced that the defendants have a reasonable chance of proving their case if the evidence were to be allowed. Therefore a verbal offer of proof is usually requested in order to describe the evidence the defendants would present on their behalf if given the chance. Sometimes during the offer of proof, expert witnesses may be called and even asked leading questions in order to establish the case. If the judge rules out this defense, none of this testimony may be heard by the jury.
The necessity defense has been a part of common law in England and has become an established principle in U.S. criminal law. In United States v. Ashton, 24 Fed Case 873 (1834) the crew was found to be justified in refusing to obey a captain's order to continue sailing when they acted upon a "bona fide reasonable belief" that the ship was unseaworthy. The Ashton case established that "not just peril, but a well-founded belief in impending peril is sufficient to raise the defense."
There are five elements in the defense of necessity, each of which must be proven:
1. There is a danger or harm.
2. The danger is imminent.
3. Other methods have been inadequate to remove the danger.
4. The action taken was a lesser evil than the danger.
5. A reasonable person would believe that this action could remove the danger.
The international law defense may be combined with the defense of necessity by substituting violations of international law for the danger in each of the five elements. Thus defendants felt obligated to act in order to prevent the commission of crimes.
The judicial system of the United States is required to apply international law and U.S. treaties as is stated in the U.S. Constitution Article III Section 2: "The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority." Article VI makes it even clearer that international law as defined by treaties that the U.S. has entered into are to be the highest law along with the Constitution and are to take precedent over any other laws:
This Constitution and the laws of the United States
which shall be made in pursuance thereof and all treaties made,
or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States,
shall be the supreme law of the land;
and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby,
anything in the Constitution or laws of any state
to the contrary notwithstanding.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Paquete Habana, 175 US 677, (1900) stated,
International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained
and administered by the courts of justice
of appropriate jurisdiction as often as questions of right
depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.
The following are some of the U.S. treaties and generally accepted
principles of international law that can be used in presenting
* Treaty of Renunciation of War as a National Policy, sometimes referred to as the Kellogg-Briand Pact or the Pact of Paris, signed August 27, 1928 by fifteen powers including the U.S. The treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate on December 4, 1928 with only one dissenting vote. Compatible with the United Nations, it is still in force in 62 nations as of 1969:
Deeply sensible of their solemn duty
to promote the welfare of mankind;
persuaded that the time has come
when a frank renunciation of war
as an instrument of national policy should be made
to the end that the peaceful and friendly relations
now existing between their peoples may be perpetuated;
convinced that all changes in their relations with one another
should be sought only by pacific means
and be the result of a peaceful and orderly process,
and that any signatory power which shall hereafter seek
to promote its national interests by resort to war
should be denied the benefits furnished by this treaty;
hopeful that, encouraged by their example,
all the other nations of the world will join in this humane endeavor
and by adhering to the present treaty as soon as it comes into force
bring their peoples within the scope of its beneficent provisions,
thus uniting the civilized nations of the world
in a common renunciation of war
as an instrument of their national policy;
have decided to conclude a treaty ...
Article 1. The high contracting parties solemnly declare
in the names of their respective peoples
that they condemn recourse to war
for the solution of international controversies,
and renounce it as an instrument of national policy
in their relations with one another.
Article 2. The high contracting parties agree
that the settlement or solution of all disputes
or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be,
which may arise among them,
shall never be sought except by pacific means....
* The United Nations Charter was signed June 26, 1945 and by votes of both houses of the U.S. Congress the United States became an official member on December 20, 1945:
We the peoples of the United Nations
determined to save succeeding generations
from the scourge of war,
which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind,
and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,
in the dignity and worth of the human person,
in the equal rights of men and women
and of nations large and small,
and to establish conditions under which justice
and respect for the obligations arising from treaties
and other sources of international law can be maintained,
and to promote social progress
and better standards of life in larger freedom,
and for these ends to practice tolerance
and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors,
and to unite our strength to maintain
international peace and security,
and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles
and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used,
save in the common interest,
and to employ international machinery for the promotion
of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims ...
Article 1. The Purposes of the United Nations are:
1. To maintain international peace and security,
and to that end: to take effective collective measures
for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace,
and for the suppression of acts of aggression
or other breaches of the peace,
and to bring about by peaceful means,
and in conformity with the principles
of justice and international law,
adjustment or settlement of international disputes
or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
2. To develop friendly relations among nations
based on respect for the principle of equal rights
and self-determination of peoples,
and to take other appropriate measures
to strengthen universal peace;
3. To achieve international cooperation
in solving international problems
of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character,
and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights
and for fundamental freedoms for all
without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
4. To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations
in the attainment of these common ends.
Article 2. The Organization and its Members,
in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1,
shall act in accordance with the following Principles:
1. The Organization is based on the principle
of the sovereign equality of its Members.
2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them
the rights and benefits resulting from membership,
shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them
in accordance with the present Charter.
3. All Members shall settle their international disputes
by peaceful means in such a manner
that international peace and security,
and justice, are not endangered.
4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations
from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity
or political independence of any state,
or in any other manner inconsistent
with the Purposes of the United Nations.
* Treaty of London authorizing the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals
on August 8, 1945 was signed by the US.
Article 6a states that "waging of a war of aggression" is a "crime against peace" imposing "individual responsibility."
Article 8. The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order
of his Government or of a superior
shall not free him from responsibility,
but may be considered in mitigation of punishment
if the Tribunal determines that justice so requires.
* Charter of the two War Crimes Tribunals known as the Nuremberg Principles were expressly reaffirmed by unanimous resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946 and, according to international law expert J. L. Brierly, are now undoubtedly accepted as part of general international law:
Principle I. Any person who commits an act
which constitutes a crime under international law
is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.
Principle II. The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty
for an act which constitutes a crime under international law
does not relieve the person who committed the act
from responsibility under international law.
Principle III. The fact that a person committed an act
which constitutes a crime under international law
acted as Head of State or responsible Government official
does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.
Principle IV. The fact that a person acted
pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior
does not relieve him from responsibility under international law,
provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
Principle V. Any person charged with a crime
under international law has the right to a fair trial
on the facts and law.
Principle VI. The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable
as crimes under international law:
a. Crimes against peace:
i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of
a war of aggression or a war in violation
of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
ii. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy
for the accomplishment of any of the acts
mentioned under (i).
b. War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include,
but are not limited to, murder,
ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor
or for any other purpose of civilian population
of or in occupied territory,
murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war
or persons on the seas, killing of hostages,
plunder of public or private property,
wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages,
or devastation not justified by military necessity.
c. Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation
and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population,
or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds,
when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on
in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace
or any war crime.
Principle VII. Complicity in the commission of
a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity
as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
* Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 12, 1949, ratified by the U.S. and went into force February 2, 1956:
Article 27. Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances,
to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights,
their religious convictions and practices,
and their manners and customs.
They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected
specifically against all acts of violence or threats thereof
and against insults and public curiosity.
Women shall be especially protected against any attack
on their honor, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution,
or any form of indecent assault.
Without prejudice to the provisions relating to their state
of health, age and sex, all protected persons shall be treated
with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict
in whose power they are, without any adverse distinction
based, in particular, on race, religion or political opinion.
Article 30. The High Contracting Parties specifically agree
that each of them is prohibited from taking any measure
of such character as to cause physical suffering
or extermination of protected persons in their lands.
This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture,
corporal punishment, mutilation
and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated
by the medical treatment of a protected person,
but also to any other measures of brutality
whether applied by civilian or military agents.
Article 31. No protected person may be punished for an offense
he or she has not personally committed.
Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation
or of terrorism are prohibited.
Pillage is prohibited.
Reprisals against protected persons and their property
Article 32. The taking of hostages is prohibited.
* Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons done at Washington, London, and Moscow July 1, 1968, ratified by the U.S. Senate and entered into force on March 5, 1970:
The States concluding this Treaty ...
considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind
by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort
to avert the danger of such a war
and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples,
believing that the proliferation of nuclear weapons
would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war,
in conformity with resolutions of the United Nations
General Assembly calling for the conclusion of an agreement
on the prevention of wider dissemination of nuclear weapons,...
declaring their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date
the cessation of the nuclear arms race
and to undertake effective measures
in the direction of nuclear disarmament,
urging the cooperation of all States
in the attainment of this objective,
recalling the determination expressed by the Parties
to the 1963 Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests
in the atmosphere in outer space and under water
in its Preamble to seek to achieve the discontinuance
of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time
and to continue negotiations to this end,
desiring to further the easing of international tension
and the strengthening of trust between States
in order to facilitate the cessation
of the manufacture of nuclear weapons,
the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles,
and the elimination from national arsenals
of weapons and the means of their delivery
pursuant to a treaty on general and complete disarmament
under strict and effective international control,
recalling that, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,
States must refrain in their international relations
from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity
or political independence of any State,
or in any other manner inconsistent with
the Purposes of the United Nations,
and that the establishment and maintenance
of international peace and security are to be promoted
with the least diversion for armaments
of the world's human and economic resources,
have agreed as follows: ...
Article VI. Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes
to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures
relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date
and to nuclear disarmament,
and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament
under strict and effective international control.
Since about half of federal income tax still goes to pay for
past, present and future expenses of the military, many activists
feel that in good conscience they cannot contribute any money
to this effort. The simplest way to do this is to earn less than
the minimum amount required in order to owe no federal income
Others, whose incomes are larger, may choose to refuse to pay a portion or all of their income tax owed. This means that the Internal Revenue Service may attempt to take the money from bank accounts, salary checks, or any other way they think they can get it. Individuals are not usually put in jail for refusing to pay, but they occasionally can be found guilty of violating tax laws or perjury laws if subterfuge is used.
The following organizations are able to provide more information:
National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
P. O. Box 6512
Ithaca, NY 14851
War Resisters League
339 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10012
You shall not kill....
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the children of God....
You heard that it was said to the ancients, 'You shall not kill,
and whoever kills will be subject to judgment.
But I tell you that all who are angry at their brother or sister
will be subject to judgment....
You heard that it was said,
'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
But I tell you not to oppose the bad,
but whoever strikes you on the right cheek,
turn to them also the other....
You heard that it was said,
'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you, 'Love your enemies, do good to those hating you,
bless those cursing you, pray about those abusing you.
There are many ways that each of us can contribute our skills
and assets to the work for peace and justice in this world. In
this process it is important that we remain true to ourselves
and our own personal relationships. By cooperating together and
supporting each other in the many ways people can work on these
issues, we can strengthen and improve the quality of our lives
By appreciating the work of various people and organizations, we can see how we are part of a larger movement for social change in this country and the world. Establishing peace and justice in the world are such overwhelming challenges that we need to form coalitions with like-minded people, while we each do our little part to make the struggles of so many eventually successful. Ultimately our children and grandchildren will inherit the world we leave them. Let us hope that by our actions, both personal and collective, we will have passed on a planet that is closer to our goals and aspirations. The problems we face, not only in regard to the dangers of war but also with environmental deterioration, call us to special efforts, because it is likely that the next few years will be critical to the future of human civilization and planet Earth. Let us then do our best to be true to ourselves, our communities, our species, our planet, and our God.
This chapter has been published in the book Nonviolent Action Handbook. For ordering information, please click here.
Liberation from Seven Deadly -Isms