A call for international action against the Trump administration for its crimes against humanity

The Nuremberg trials are an early precedent for pursuing legal action against government officials who are charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I believe that it’s time to open up a new front against the Trump administration and its cruel and inhumane treatment of families and children at our border with Mexico. It would be a legal front, and it would involve the International Criminal Court in the prosecution of Trump and officials in his administration for crimes against humanity, which are, by charter, under its jurisdiction.

The idea that heads of state, government officials, and administrative functionaries are subject to prosecution for these kind of crimes no matter where they occur is nothing new. It gained prominence in the immediate post-war period with the famous Nuremberg trials. It is a sad reminder today that the U.S. was then at the forefront of devising a legal process for the protection of human rights and the prosecution of those who violate them.

Although the Nuremberg trials were criticized at the time as being little more than a facade for “victor’s justice,” the principles that motivated them became enshrined in international law, ultimately with the creation of the International Criminal Court in 1998. In addition, individual countries have adopted what is called “universal jurisdiction” for crimes such as genocide and reserve the right to indict suspected perpetrators to be tried by their own courts.

That these judicial mechanisms are more than abstract legal theories has been demonstrated before, notably with the indictment and resulting arrest of ex-Chilean-strongman General Augusto Pinochet by Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzón twenty years ago. Similarly, war crimes charges brought by German prosecutors against George W. Bush administration officials as a result of their acts of torture have left open the question as to whether specific members of that administration might be subject to arrest if they travel to Europe.

It would seem that such legal action against Donald Trump and others involved, for example Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in the implementation of his family separation program would be in order, given the magnitude of their crimes and the historical precedents for international actors to pursue such matters. Although arrests are not likely anytime soon, such a move would put the Trump administration on notice that the world objects to its inhumane treatment of migrants in the severest terms possible.

Finally, it should be noted that, as a deterrent, the initiation of legal proceedings now would let the hired hands who are carrying out these criminal policies know that their “just following orders” defense won’t pass muster and that, one day, while passing through an airport, say, in Frankfurt or Madrid, they may find themselves marched off a plane and into the custody of the International Criminal Court to await trial for their crimes.