The last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials recently described the Trump administration’s former policy of separating immigrant families as a crime against humanity.
In an interview with outgoing United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, 99-year-old Ben Ferencz — who oversaw the convictions of 22 Nazi officials who committed genocide against millions of men, women, and children — condemned family separation as equivalent with crimes against humanity defined by the UN.
“We list crimes against humanity in the Statute of the International Criminal Court. We have ‘other inhumane acts designed to cause great suffering’. What could cause more great suffering than what they did in the name of immigration law? It’s ridiculous,” Ferencz said.
Ferencz’s description of family separation as a crime against humanity is significant, given his role in historical events. He was just 27 when he led the prosecutorial team at the Einsatzgruppen trial in 1946, which was the ninth of 12 trials in Nuremberg, Germany following World War II. The Einsatzgruppen were an SS death squad that killed more than one million Jews and tens of thousands of “partisans” like homosexuals, Romani, and disabled individuals.
“[T]he defendants are not simply accused of planning or directing wholesale killings through channels. They are not charged with sitting in an office hundreds and thousands of miles away from the slaughter,” read page 412 of the tribunal. “It is asserted with particularity that these men were in the field actively superintending, controlling, directing, and taking an active part in the bloody harvest.”
While it may seem hyperbolic to compare the Trump administration’s immigration policy to genocide, it actually fits the UN’s definition of genocide, according to Article II of the 1948 Conventions on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide, which went into effect in 1951.
Article II of the convention defines genocide as an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” which includes “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Even though President Trump signed an executive order ending the policy of separating families from their children at the border this summer, he missed a court-ordered deadline in July to reunite hundreds of children who remain separated from their parents. Aside from separating children from their mothers and fathers, children in government custody were forcibly drugged with psychotropics without any parental consent until a federal judge ordered a stop to the practice last month.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.