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Tijdschrift Erasmus Law Review x

    The Versailles Treaty (Art. 227) called for the prosecution of Wilhelm II, the German ex-Kaiser. Because of the refusal of the Dutch Government to surrender Wilhelm, a trial never took place. This paper tries to elaborate some questions concerning this possible trial. What was the background of the said Treaty paragraph? What would have happened when Wilhelm had been surrendered? Based on a report of a special committee to the peace conference, the possible indictment is discussed. The authors try to elaborate some thoughts for answering the question about Wilhelm’s criminal responsibility, especially as author of the war (‘ius ad bellum’) by starting an aggressive war and/or by violating the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg. Wilhelm’s possible responsibility for violations of the ‘ius in bello’ (laws and customs of war) in Belgium, France, and Poland and/or by ordering an unlimited submarine war is discussed as well. It is concluded that it would have been very difficult for the tribunal to have Wilhelm find criminal responsible for the indictment, except for the violation of the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg. But then, the tribunal would have been obliged to answer fundamental questions about the command responsibility of Wilhelm. From a point of view of international criminal law, it is rather unfortunate that the unique opportunity for a ‘Prologue to Nuremberg’ was not realised, although a trial would not have made history take a different turn than it did in the twentieth century after the ‘Great War’.


Paul Mevis
P.A.M. Mevis is professor of criminal law at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Prof. Mevis wrote before ‘De berechting van Wilhelm II’, in J. Dohmen, T. Draaisma & E. Stamhuis (ed.), Een kwestie van grensoverschrijding. Liber amicorum P.E.L. Janssen (2009), at 197-231.

Jan M. Reijntjes
J.M. Reijntjes is professor of (international) criminal law at the University of Curaçao.
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