Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Rule of Law

A few years ago I sat in a lecture hall at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law listening and watching.

The place was energized with the shared synapses of profound thought. You could feel it touch your mind. The space was sanctified by the clear memory and eloquent presentations of Nuremberg prosecutors, Ben Ferenz, Henry King and Whitney Harris. They were there for one purpose, to debate the lessons and discuss the legacy of the Nuremberg trials.

I watched the old and the young come together to remember and to preserve the legacy of a profound achievement sired by trials at Nuremberg -- the birth of the rule of law in a global society.

The rule of law, however, has been broken and bent over the decades by perpetrators of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Milosevic, Pinochet, Hussein are some to name only a few.

The mission of the conference was to reflect on the trials’ significance and their affect on contemporary visions of international justice.

As I sat there, I sensed that this gathering was a reaffirmation of an absolute that Nuremberg was not open to interpretation.

It was a sacred lesson that affirmed not only the insanity of hate and evil, but the crimes of indifference and silence that allowed the leaders of Nazi Germany, and later Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur the freedom to massively slaughter innocent men, women and children.

If there was one central truth to this conference it was that all individuals have the right and the responsibility to “speak reason and truth to power”.

I wish you could have been there.

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