United Nations War Crimes Commission

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The United Nations War Crimes Commission, initially called the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes, was a commission of the United Nations that investigated allegations of war crimes committed by Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers in World War II.[1]

The Commission began its work at the behest of the British government[2] and the other Allied nations in 1943, prior to the formal establishment of the United Nations itself, in October, 1945.[3] The announcement of the establishment of the Commission was made by the Lord Chancellor John Simon in the House of Lords on October 7, 1942:

The proposal is to set up with the least possible delay a United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes. The Commission will be composed of nationals of the United Nations, selected by their Governments. The Commission will investigate war crimes committed against nationals of the United Nations recording the testimony available, and the Commission will report from time to time to the Governments of those nations cases in which such crimes appear to have been committed, naming and identifying wherever possible the persons responsible. The Commission should direct its attention in particular to organized atrocities. Atrocities perpetrated by or on the orders of Germany in Occupied France should be included. The investigation should cover war crimes of offenders irrespective of rank, and the aim will be to collect material, supported wherever possible by depositions or by other documents, to establish such crimes, especially where they are systematically perpetrated, and to name and identify those responsible for their perpetration. [4] A similar statement was issued by the United States government.[5]

One of the Commission's tasks was to carefully collect evidence of war crimes for the arrest and fair trial of alleged Axis war criminals. However, the Commission had no power to prosecute criminals by itself. It merely reported back to the government members of the UN. These governments then could convene tribunals, such as the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The Commission was headed by Lord Wright.[6] Having operated from 1943 to 1948,[7] it was dissolved in 1949.


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