U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer: Rule of law serves to punish, prevent and remember atrocities

By Kimberly Atkins

The Daily Record Newswire

Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the Holocaust, Justice Stephen Breyer stressed the importance of the judicial system in holding perpetrators of horrific atrocities accountable, and in creating a record so that such events can be remembered and not repeated.

''What role can the law play in helping us, through recollection, guard against that day when that perpetual evil, analogous to the plague germ, might re-awaken?'' Justice Breyer asked in a keynote address at the Holocaust Memorial Museum recently, an event that wrapped up the National Days of Remembrance.

Breyer used the example of the late Justice Robert Jackson, who served as chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of 24 Nazi leaders for crimes against humanity.

''[Jackson] later described his Nuremberg work as 'the most important experience of my life,' 'infinitely more important than my work on the Supreme Court or ... anything that I did as Attorney General,''' Breyer said.

''His object was to make 'explicit and unambiguous' in law 'that to persecute, oppress, or do violence to individuals or minorities on political, racial or religious grounds ... is an international crime ... for the commission [of which] ... individuals are responsible' and 'can, and will be punished.'''

Breyer noted that ''Jackson collected the evidence, not simply to convict the war criminals but also to document the facts for history to remember.''

''Nuremberg can remind us that the Holocaust story ended with a fair trial,'' Breyer said.

''And that trial, along with the other ways in which law furthers the work of remembrance, can remind us of our eternal aspiration for Justice.''

Published: Mon, May 23, 2011

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