United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 52. Pillage
Section B. Pillage committed by civilians
In the Flick case
before the US Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1947, the accused, the principal proprietor of a large group of German industrial enterprises (and four officials of the same group), which included coal and iron mines and steel producing plants, was charged with war crimes, inter alia
, for the plunder of public and private property, and spoliation, in the countries and territories occupied by Germany. Flick was found guilty of this count of indictment. The Tribunal stated that “no defendant is shown by the evidence to have been responsible for any act of pillage as that word is commonly understood”, but it, however, quoted Article 47 of the 1907 Hague Regulations as one of the articles relevant in casu
In the Krupp case before the US Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1948, six of the accused, officials of the Krupp industrial enterprises occupying high positions in political, financial, industrial and economic circles in Germany, were found guilty of war crimes for, inter alia, the plunder and spoliation of public and private property in the territories occupied by Germany. The Tribunal quoted Article 47 of the 1907 Hague Regulations as pertinent in casu. It also stated that it “fully concurs with the Judgement of the I.M.T. that the [1907 Hague Convention (IV)], to which Germany was a party, had by 1939 become customary law and was, therefore, binding on Germany not only as Treaty Law but also as Customary Law”. The Tribunal further stated:
Spoliation of private property … is forbidden under two aspects; firstly, the individual private owner of property must not be deprived of it; secondly, the economic subsistence of the belligerently occupied territory must not be taken over by the occupant or put to the service of his war effort – always with the proviso that there are exemptions from this rule which are strictly limited to the needs of the army of occupation in so far as such needs do not exceed the economic strength of the occupied territory.
In the Krauch case (The I.G. Farben Trial) before the US Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1948, the accused, officials of I.G. Farben Industrie A.G., were charged, inter alia, with war crimes for unlawfully, wilfully and knowingly ordering, abetting and taking a consenting part in the plunder of public and private property, exploitation and spoliation of property in countries and territories which came under the belligerent occupation of Germany. The charges were regarded as violations of Articles 46 to 56 of the 1907 Hague Regulations. Some of the accused were convicted on this count. The Tribunal held that “the offence of plunder of public and private property must be considered a well-recognised crime under international law”. It added:
The Hague Regulations do not specifically employ the term “spoliation”, but we do not consider this matter to be one of legal significance. As employed in the Indictment, the term is used interchangeably with the words “plunder” and “exploitation”. It may therefore be properly considered that the term “spoliation”, which has been admittedly adopted as a term of convenience by the Prosecution, applies to the widespread and systematised acts of dispossession and acquisition of property in violation of the rights of the owners which took place in territories under the belligerent occupation or control of Nazi Germany during World War II. We consider that “spoliation” is synonymous with the word “plunder” as employed in Control Council Law No. 10, and that it embraces offences against property in violation of the laws and customs of war of the general type charged in the Indictment.
[I]t is illustrative of the view that offences against property of the character described in the [1943 Inter-Allied Declaration against Acts of Dispossession] were considered by the signatory powers to constitute action in violation of existing international law.
In our view, the offences against property defined in the Hague Regulations are broad in their phraseology and do not admit of any distinction between “plunder” in the restricted sense of acquisition of physical properties, which are the subject matter of the crime, the plunder or spoliation resulting from acquisition of intangible property such as is involved in the acquisition of stock ownership, or of acquisition of ownership or control through any other means, even though apparently legal in form.