The judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nurnberg ignited a controversy which still smolders over the meaning of the principles applied by the Tribunal and their application in international and domestic law. At the core of this continuing controversy is the theory of individual responsibility for the commission of crimes against peace which was formulated in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal and applied in its judgment. In several recent decisions in the courts of the United States this same theory of individual criminal responsibility of a citizen of the United States, arising from the alleged commission of an international crime against peace by the federal government in Vietnam, has been raised as a defense to crimes involving civil disobedience. In order to assess this "Nurnberg defense" it is necessary to examine the nature and limits of this crime against peace and the extent to which the individual may be responsible for its commission by his government; the obstacles which may arise in using it as a defense in domestic courts; and the conflict, inherent in the defense, between the theory of individual international criminal responsibility and the necessity for order in the national state.

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