Review by Nick Cohen of Justice and the Enemy by William Shawcross.
In 1946, Sir Hartley Shawcross, the chief British prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, gave a noble speech: “Mankind itself, struggling now to re-establish, in all the countries of the world the common simple things – liberty, love, understanding – comes to this court and cries, ‘These are our laws – let them prevail.'”
That any notion of justice prevailed after the horror of the second world war was a miracle in itself. Churchill and Stalin wanted the summary execution of Nazi war criminals. The rule of law prevailed, however. The military court gave the 24 alleged war criminals a fair trial, acquitting three and condemning another seven to prison rather than death. World opinion remembers Nuremberg fondly, but deprecates the efforts of America to punish Islamists suspected of war crimes today.
Yet as Sir Hartley’s son, William Shawcross, notes, if you had offered a Nazi a choice between Nuremberg then and Guantánamo now, he would have headed to the Caribbean at once. American military commissions grant defendants the right of appeal, oversight of their cases by civilian courts and the best legal representation – none of which the victorious allies allowed the defeated Germans.
Carry on reading