What are War Crimes?
A war crime refers to a serious violation of the laws present in an armed conflict (also known as International humanitarian law). Such actions give rise to individual criminal responsibility; although the actions in a war are violent and in many cases inhumane, there is a firm legal code that surrounds a state of war.
Examples of war crimes include the ill-treatment or deportation of civilian residents as well as the murder of common citizens in occupied territories. The killing of hostages or the ill-treatment of prisoners of war is also considered war crimes.
War crimes were established during the Geneva Conventions, which are four intertwined treaties adopted between 1864 and 1949. Such treaties outlined a legal basis for International law with regard to war conduct. That being said, not all nations have signed the Geneva Convention and as such retain a different code and value system with regard to wartime conduct. Domestically speaking, the United States has developed military laws that are separate from the Geneva Convention.
War crimes are significant aspects of international humanitarian law because they are specific areas in which international tribunals (such as the Nuremberg Trials and Tokyo Trials) have been convened. Through the administration of these trials the definition and the attached punishments have been elucidated upon. For example, the modern concept of a war crime was further expanded under the auspices of the Nuremberg Trials. During this time, the charter who oversaw the trials (the London Charter) further defined war crimes as any violation against peace and crimes against humanity.
Military Law vs. Federal Law
The United States Department of Defense operates under Federal Law as per the guidelines expressed within the disbursement of a triune governmental oversight system, which allows for the United States to exist under the jurisdiction of the Executive branch of the government; this results in the appointment of the President of the United States as the Commander in Chief of the entirety of the Armed Forces. However, Military Law – a legal field classified as a subgenre of Federal Law – typically addresses the activity and behavior of military personnel; this can include:
Absent Without Leave (AWOL): The unlawful desertion of a service member with regard to their respective commitment to the United States #; individuals deemed to have abandoned positions may be tried by military court and subsequently court martialed.
Martial Law: Martial Law is the instatement of Military rule over specific jurisdictions within a country or nation; in many cases with regard to the implementation of heightened security measures, the United States # may be appointed in the event that the acting body of civil law enforcement is unable to maintain sufficient order.
Judge Advocate General (JAG Corps): The JAG Corps - or Judge Advocate General Corps - are classified as the acting legal body within the United states #. JAG Corps not only oversee the court martial process, but also are responsible for upholding the maintenance of the protocols and parameters expressed within the UCMJ; in many cases, the legal issues addressed by the acting JAG Corps are specific – these include: war crimes, treason, sedition, refusal to obey orders, undue violence, and offenses directed against military personnel.