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Humankind: The Rights of Civilians

Two refugees embrace in a crowd

A primary mission of international humanitarian law, like the Geneva Conventions, is to safeguard innocent men, women and children who fall victim or are deliberately targeted in the crossfire of violent conflict.

But can the rule of law help to limit the worst tragedies of war? What are the consequences when a country violates these protections?

We’ll consider the history of courts intended to safeguard civilians and hold offenders accountable:

From the Nuremberg trials based on Nazi atrocities in WW2. Or the time a victim of Slobodan Milosevic — known as “the Butcher of the Balkans” — confronted him at trial: “I actually have a question for you. I just want to know, don't you have any feelings? How can you do this to women and children?” Or the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has now opened an investigation into Russian conduct in Ukraine.

You’ll hear comments by the late Walter Cronkite, describing his emotions as Nazi leaders entered the Nuremberg Tribunal. An American federal judge tells what it was like for her personally as she presided over trials in the Balkans. And we examine events around the founding of the ICC — considered a milestone for the rule of law, which incorporates the rights of women among other new protections for civilians.

Heard on KGOU
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