Jackson Center co-sponsors webinar on Ukraine

As war unfolds in Ukraine, it can be challenging to keep the reports, videos and images coming from inside that country in context.

To assist in that effort, the Robert H. Jackson Center co-sponsored a webinar with the Academy for Human Rights and the Educators’ Institute for Human Rights to attempt to do just that.

Jackson Center President Kristan McMahan introduced Jackson’s relevance to the current situation at the outset of the webinar.

Jackson “really was tasked with creating the tribunal and working with the three Allied Powers to define the crimes (and) structure the trial,” McMahon said. “Jackson, if he could have made war itself illegal, he would have.”

Jackson, born in Spring Creek, served as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court but, more appropriately in this context, as the chief US prosecutor at Nuremberg, the tribunal established to prosecute Nazi war criminals.

“One of the crimes is aggressive warfare,” she added, calling it “particularly relevant for what we’re talking about today.”

The session included a series of speakers with an emphasis on how to teach the current conflict.

That included former Jackson Center Board President David Crane, who brought unique international law experience as the first chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone which indicted and ultimately convicted Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Crane was clear that the last few weeks “certainly has changed the world… to a point I never would have imagined where we are.”

He explained that the world had been operating under a 75-year-old plus United Nation paradigm with an emphasis on settling disputes peacefully.

“That just went out the window two weeks ago,” he said, “when a European nation invaded another European nation for no reason. The UN… stood shoulder to shoulder and said ‘No, this is illegal. This is not right’ and backed Ukraine unequivocally.”

He said it also brought a willingness “to defend democracy” from a “faltering” entity that came back together in NATO.

Crane said there are steps being taken to hold “Putin and his henchmen” accountable for war crimes and aggression but outlined a serious concern: “Putin has put all his nuclear weapons on combat alert. We are two seconds from armageddon. (That is) something we need to be frightened about. We have him in a corner.”

He was asked to identify historical comparisons that reflect what is happening today.

He looked back to the 1920s and 1930s and the “age of the strongman” which was accompanied with a “rise in populism and nationalism, (a) step away from an international approach to solve problems.”

Specifically, he highlighted Hitler “moving around, flexing his wings” with invasions such as that of the Sudetenland in the late 1930s.

“Putin is really playing out of the same playgood… and we all saw how that ended,” Crane said.

He stressed his belief that the law will ultimately solve the current crisis.

So what should teachers be telling their students?

“The rule of law is more powerful than the rule of the gun,” Crane said.


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