Benjamin Ferencz turned 100 on 11 March 2020. He has been a fixture in the global international legal scene for over 70 years. Younger generations remember him as a tireless activist who for the decades was involved in the lobbying efforts to create a permanent International Criminal Court and he greeted the affirmation of the Rome Statute in 1998 with the words that “an International Criminal Court - the missing link in the world legal order - is within our grasp.” Indeed, in 2002 the International Criminal Court (the ICC) was created. But Ferencz had yet another mission to fulfill. Along with his son Donald, and a group of distinguished scholars, lawyers and diplomats, he rallied vigorously and intensively to add to the ICC Statute – the crime of aggression. And they succeed. As of July 2018, the crime of aggression became the fourth crime – next to war crimes, a crime against humanity, and genocide – under the ICC’s jurisdiction. Not insignificant for the story is the fact that this was a historical development in the international criminal justice given that it is the first time since Nuremberg’s Nazi trials that an international tribunal has been enabled to prosecute the crime of aggression.
Ferencz started his legal career in 1947 in Nuremberg and at age 27 he became the youngest US prosecutor to prosecute the Nazi crimes. This extraordinary beginning of his professional life will mark Ferencz. The evidence he encountered in his work made him feel that he had peeked through the door of Inferno. After the war, he moved to New York where he practiced law in a private firm until 1975 when he finished the book Defining International Aggression-The Search for World Peace. More books followed and his ideas led to the activism of which the creation of the ICC and inclusion of the crime of aggression in the ICC statute are –are his most extraordinary achievements. Benjamin Ferencz showed us that the law can change the way how people think and behave.
We are lucky to have his support from the early days of the existence of the GNF. Ben’s inspiring video talks for the Master Class students have been an encouragement for all of us how a single individual can make a huge difference. His most important lessons “Never Give Up” and “Law Not War” is inspiration and responsibility to continue to build the global justice system.
Ben Ferencz - Dubrovnik summer program
Dubronvik Masterclass 2017