Nuremberg prosecutor featured on “60 Minutes” defended Hawaii peace activists in 1972 case

Nuremberg prosecutor featured on “60 Minutes” defended Hawaii peace activists in 1972 case

The CBS news program, 60 Minutes, featured a segment on 99-year old Ben Ferencz, the last living prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials following WWII (“What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know“).

Here’s a historical tidbit. Ferencz, and a second Nuremberg prosecutor, Mary Kaufman, appeared in federal court in Honolulu in the 1972 trial of the so-called “Hickam Three.”

The Hickam 3–UH religion professor and author Jim Douglass, peace activist and teacher Jim Albertini, and Chuck Giuli–were charged with destroying government property by pouring human blood onto secret Vietnam war files in an office at Hickam Air Force Base in a March 2, 1972 protest. The blood pouring incident became a center of anti-Vietnam War protests in Honolulu during 1972.

All charges against Giuli were dropped after government witnesses failed to tie him to the destruction of documents.

Ferencz and Kaufman argued in court that the defendants’ actions were legal because they were trying to prevent war crimes from being committed by the U.S. government.

The former Nuremberg prosecutors court appearance was reported by both Honolulu daily newspapers. Honolulu Advertiser reporter Tim Toner wrote:

Ferencz argued the defendants “believed crimes were about to be committed by an agency of their government and took such steps as were reasonably possible to prevent the commission of the crimes.”

The defense cited the Hague Convention of 1907 prohibiting “the use of weapons (such as antipersonnel bombs0 that cause unnecessary suffering.”

Federal Judge Samuel P. King ruled that the “war crimes” defense could to be used because the relationship between the Hickam files and any potential war crimes was too remote. However, King did allow defendants to testify about their own feelings about the war in order to describe their “state of mind” during the blood-pouring protest.

I found two articles describing the former prosecutors’ appearance in the courtroom in Honolulu old Federal Building.

Both men were convicted of conspiracy and destruction of government property, and sentenced to a year probation and a $500 fine. Both refused to pay the fine. Albertini was later sentenced to 90 days in Halawa prison for his refusal. Douglass moved to Canada, but was arrested in 1975, brought back to Honolulu, and sentenced to 2-1/2 years probation.

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