Former Nuremberg Prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz Receives Harris Institute’s 2015 World Peace Through Law Award

The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute has bestowed its 2015 World Peace Through Law Award on former Nuremberg Prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz. Established by the Harris Institute in 2006 with the generous support of Whitney and Anna Harris, this award recognizes individuals who have achieved great distinction in the field of international law and have considerably advanced the rule of law and thereby contributed to world peace.

As a war crimes investigator during the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, Ferencz gathered evidence of Nazi atrocities that was later used in the Nuremberg Trials. As the Chief Prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen case at the age of 27, he secured the conviction of 22 of the world’s most ruthless criminals.

Ferencz has dedicated his life to using the power of international law to eradicate war and bring about a more humane and just legal order. A prolific author and public intellectual, he personally contributed to the establishment of the International Criminal Court. Indeed, his first book, Defining International Aggression: The Search for World Peace, is continuously referred to as a seminal work on the need for the establishment of institutions to promote world peace.

In the 70 years since Nuremberg, Ferencz has led efforts to return property to Holocaust survivors and played an instrumental role in reparations negotiations between Israel and West Germany. During the award ceremony, St. Louis resident Ben Fainer, author of Silent for Sixty Years: Ben Fainer - Holocaust Survivor, was also recognized.

In accepting the award, Ferencz stressed the importance of combatting crimes against humanity as part of an ongoing global effort. “Every day, we have to be working on these issues,” he observed. “We must replace the law of force with the force of law … and [recognize] the entitlement of all human beings regardless of race or creed to be protected by the rule of law.”


Ferencz was presented with the award in conjunction with the International Experts’ Meeting on The Illegal Use of Force: Reconceptualizing the Laws of War, convened by the Harris Institute and the Planethood Foundation on September 11-12 at Washington University School of Law.

Throughout the two days of meetings, experts grappled with the issue of insisting upon accountability for the illegal use of force.  Discussions considered mechanisms including criminal prosecutions, fact-finding commissions of inquiry, litigation before international courts and tribunals, and adjusting the normative framework of international law. 

“The Experts’ Meeting built on the important efforts of the Harris Institute, as we continue to work with international scholars, practitioners, and jurists to develop and promote the world’s first model convention on crimes against humanity,” notes Leila Nadya Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and Harris Institute director.