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Victor's justice

The label "victor's justice" (in German, Siegerjustiz) is applied by advocates to a situation in which they believe that a victorious nation is applying different rules to judge what is right or wrong for their own forces and for those of the (former) enemy. Advocates generally charge that the difference in rules amounts to hypocrisy and leads to injustice. Targets of the label may consider it derogatory.

Table of contents
1 Why should victors be just?
2 Allegations of victor's justice
3 Attempts to ensure the fairness of war crimes prosecutions
4 Current allegations of victor's justice
5 See also

Why should victors be just?

The concept that a victor should be just appears to be a recent idea, possibly being part of the just war doctrine. In previous times, victors did as they liked with their defeated enemies, killing, torturing, mutilating and enslaving their populations. This was accepted as the way the world was.

However, the world subsequently aspired to higher ethical standards, and in the 19th century the Geneva conventions set up laws of war that proscribed extreme behavior, and created the concept of war crimes.

Allegations of victor's justice

Claimed examples of victor's justice have included:

After World War II, there were calls for vengeance on Nazi Germany. The Allies made a self-conscious decision to carry out war crimes trials, and to set up the Marshall Plan (a program to finance economic restructuring of Europe by providing grants and loans), rather than to simply executing their enemies, and imposing reparations on the German people as it has been suggested by the so called Morgenthau plan.

For the U.S.being the main war profiteer of WWI and WWII, establishing the Marshall plan was no real problem, and in the end by no doubt they earned much more money than they could have ever obtained from germany and Europe by conventional reparations.

However, at the Nuremberg Criminal Court for war crimes only German war criminals were prosecuted, whereas what are viewed by some as war crimes by Allied troops were not. Numerous Germans consider this to be a betrayal of the principles of the Nuremberg Trials.

Examples of alleged Allied war crimes during and after World War II included:

None of these resulted in war crimes prosecutions.

Attempts to ensure the fairness of war crimes prosecutions

Since then, the accusation of victor's justice has arisen in every subsequent conflict where war crimes prosecutions have been made. Examples of include the wars in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and Afghanistan.

The International Criminal Court was set up in 2003 as a treaty arrangement between member states in an attempt to provide a neutral international court that avoids the accusation of "victor's justice", and that would prosecute all alleged war crimes, on either side of any conflict. The United States has currently refused to join the ICC, and critics of this decision sometimes claim that this comes out of a desire for victor's justice - given that the United States is almost certain to win any war it participates in. See the article on the court for more detail on US and other objections to it.

Current allegations of victor's justice

Two current U.S. courses of action have led to allegations of victor's justice:

See also