The Nuremberg Principles started life in World War II as awareness of the atrocities being committed by the military powers of Germany and Japan (and their associates) grew and caused international outrage. The first formal communication about the atrocities was in the Moscow Declaration of 1943. That Declaration set out an intention to pursue perpetrators after the end of the war.

That start in setting out a determination to pursue the perpetrators of atrocities had its next major formal boost, when the Nuremberg Charter was signed in London on 8th August 1945 billed as "Agreement for the prosecution and punishment of the war criminals of the European Axis, Signed at London 8 August 1945". The deep irony in this is that the USA had already dropped its atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6th August, signed the Nuremberg Charter on 8th August, then dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki on 9th August. Following the Nuremberg trials, were the Tokyo trials.

 In order for the Nuremberg Charter to become the Nuremberg Principles, another history thread needs to meet the thread from the Moscow Declaration. In 1924 the League f Nations created a Committee of Experts for the Progressive Codification of International Law  The League of Nations morphed into the United Nations and through a series of resolutions of the General Assembly, an International Law Commission was born. By Resolution 177, the UN General Assembly asked the International Law Commission to formulate a set of Principles from the Nuremberg tribunals. In 1950 the International Law Commission's 2nd Report to the General Assembly contained "Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nurnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal". This work by the International Law Commission was only to develop a copdified version of the principles that can be gleaned from the Nuremberg Charter and trials; it was not to add anything. The work by the International Law Commission has never resulted in a subsequent resolution of the UN General Assembly, therefore authority for considering the principles in the Nuremberg Charter and trials is derived from the UN General Assembly Resolution 95 (I), subsequently codified and simplified by the International Law Commission doing what UNGA had told it to do.

The Principles set out on another page of this site are the codified and simplified Principles.

This article can be cited as: Darnton G. (2019) "Brief History of the Nuremberg Principles", website