Peter von Hagenbach

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Hagenbach on trial, from Berner Chronik des Diebold Schilling dem Älteren.
Coat of arms of Hagenbach.

Peter von Hagenbach (or Pierre de Hagenbach or Pietro di Hagenbach or Pierre d’Archambaud or Pierre d'Aquenbacq, circa 1420 – May 9, 1474) was a Bourguignon knight from Alsace and Germanic military and civil commander.

He was born into an Alsatian-Burgundian family, originally from Hagenbach and owned a castle there.

He was instated as bailiff of Upper Alsace by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, to administer the territories and rights in Upper Alsace which had been mortgaged by Duke Sigmund of Further Austria for 50,000 florins in the Treaty of St. Omer (fr) in 1469. There he coined the term Landsknecht[citation needed]—from German, Land ("land, country") + Knecht ("servant"). It was originally intended to indicate soldiers of the lowlands of the Holy Roman Empire as opposed to the Swiss mercenaries. As early as 1500 the misleading spelling "Lanzknecht" became common because of the phonetic and visual similarity between Land(e)s ("of the land/territory") and Lanze ("lance").

Following a rebellion by towns of the Upper Rhine against his tyranny, Hagenbach was put on trial for the atrocities committed during the occupation of Breisach, found guilty of war crimes, and beheaded[1] at Breisach am Rhein. His trial by an ad hoc tribunal of the Holy Roman Empire in 1474, was the first “international” recognition of commanders’ obligations to act lawfully.[2][3] He was convicted of crimes "he as a knight was deemed to have a duty to prevent." He defended himself by arguing that he was only following orders,[2] from the Duke of Burgundy to whom the Holy Roman Empire had given Breisach.[4] Despite the fact there was no explicit use of a doctrine of command responsibility it is seen as the first trial based on that principle.[1][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b An Introduction to the International Criminal Court William A. Schabas, Cambridge University Press, Third Edition
  2. ^ a b The evolution of individual criminal responsibility under international law By Edoardo Greppi, Associate Professor of International Law at the University of Turin, Italy, International Committee of the Red Cross No. 835, p. 531-553, October 30, 1999.
  3. ^ Exhibit highlights the first international war crimes tribunal by Linda Grant, Harvard Law Bulletin.
  4. ^ The Perennial Conflict Between International Criminal Justice and Realpolitik February 10, 2006 Draft by M. Cherif Bassiouni -Distinguished Research Professor of Law and President, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University College of Law, To be Presented March 14, 2006 as the 38th Henry J. Miller Distinguished Lecture, Georgia State University College of Law, and to appear in the Georgia State University Law Review
  5. ^ Command Responsibility The Mens Rea Requirement, By Eugenia Levine, Global Policy Forum, February 2005

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