Seventieth Anniversary of the London Charter

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 7, 2015

Seventy years ago tomorrow, the United States and its Allies reached a historic agreement in London that set in motion the trials of the century – the prosecution at Nuremberg of the top officials of the Third Reich. 

Surveying the wreckage of Europe and the human toll of the Holocaust, the Allies recognized that the survival of humanity would depend on making it clear that the kind of crimes committed by the Nazi regime simply could not go unpunished, and that holding an official position or acting under orders did not diminish one’s responsibility for such crimes. 

But the Allies also recognized that even after the worst atrocities in human history, we needed to pursue justice rather than vengeance, and that our common ability to live together in the future depended on assigning guilt to the individuals most responsible, rather than collectively to whole communities. 

These principles are reflected in the London Charter and the International Military Tribunal it created, and they have been a foundation for the international community’s work toward justice in the decades that followed. 

Working with allies old and new, the United States continues to play a leading role in seeking accountability for atrocities in our own time, just as Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson and other Americans so capably helped lead the successful and historic prosecutions at Nuremberg.  

From sexual violence in eastern Congo to the brutal torture in the Assad regime’s prisons in Syria, we will continue to seek accountability for the world’s worst crimes.  Such accountability is a stabilizing force in international affairs, and it is what our values – and the memory of the victims – demand.