The Nuremberg Trials following the Second World War are often subjected to a problematic question: were they the application of actual law or simply the exercise of arbitrary power? While the Nazis caused unspeakable damage, many would still argue that the punishments they received should have been based on the Rule of Law. However, there is strong evidence that they were simply the exercise of arbitrary power by the Western Allies. Theorists such as H.L.A Hart and Lon L. Fuller would undoubtedly argue that the trials were not based on the Rule of Law and therefore simply the exercise of arbitrary power, while theorist like Jeremy Bentham may not have such a clear opinion on this question. .
H.L.A Hart, a British legal philosopher and important individual in the study of moral and political philosophy, published his most famous work " The Concept of Law " in 1958. In it, he develops his theory of legal positivism " the theory that the only legitimate sources of law are those written rules that have been articulated and implemented by a government body (Hart 595). One of Hart's most famous theories is his distinction between his primary and secondary rules. Simply put, primary rules, which are often supported by threats, are rules of conduct that more often than not aim to stop a person from committing a particular act. Secondary rules " more often meant for officials " give authority to the primary rules (Hart 97). This is where the Ultimate Rule of Recognition comes in " the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is basically the rule that commands one to follow all other rules (Hart 110). For Example, in the United States, the Rule of Law would be the Constitution; so all laws found in the Constitution must be followed, according to Hart.
During the Nuremberg trials, some of the charges brought against the war criminals were not posited under the laws of Germany, the United States Constitution, or in fact under any of the laws of the Western Allies.