The ICCBA mourns the loss of Ben Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg war crimes trials, who died on Friday aged 103.
Mr Ferencz was an inspirational lawyer and internationalist. His experiences investigating the horrors of Nazi extermination camps after liberation by the Allies in 1945, and his subsequent role as chief prosecutor for the United States army in the Einsatzgruppen trial at Nuremberg – often described as the biggest murder trial in history – convinced him of the need for a permanent international criminal court. For decades, Mr Ferencz worked tirelessly to that end. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his persuasive advocacy and tenacity, the ICC may never have come into existence.
Although best known for his work as a prosecutor, Mr Ferencz respected and understood the importance of the rights of the accused. Writing as long ago as 1948, he described how these rights were guaranteed at Nuremberg, starting with the first International Military Tribunal that tried the major Nazi defendants. Mr Ferencz supported the right of all accused to counsel of their own choice, the right to be informed of the charges against them “plainly, concisely and with sufficient particulars”, the right to adequate time to prepare their defence, the right to be present during their trial, and the right to testify in their own defence, among others.
The ICCBA, which acts as a collective voice for defence and victims’ counsel, and support staff, appearing before the ICC, owes a profound debt of gratitude to Mr Ferencz for his vision and commitment to fairness in international criminal proceedings.