Citizen disobedience

Citizen resistance under the Nuremberg obligation

The belief that an individual may have international legal obligations which override his national obligations, and which require him to passively, actively, or violently resist his country's behaviour - whether or not that behaviour has been embodied in national law - arises from the example of the findings of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which sentenced 22 Nazi defendants in 1945-1946. Thus, citizens who hold that their country is waging, or about to wage, an unjust war, may refuse to support that war, may refuse conscription, and may harm the war effort psychologically or materially in acts ranging from anti-war protest and polemic, to destruction of property, and physical attacks on individuals deemed to have some responsibility in making or carrying out policy.


Resistance can be by civilians or military; the form of verbal dissent is the most common. The American protestors against the Vietnam war are best known, but subsequent to this, there have been Russian protestors against the Afghanistan mission, and British protestors against the Maldive-Falklands exercise and Northern Ireland pacification. Protest has recently moved from the verbal mode, and from the passive occupation of public property, to fasting and fasting to death, and there seems to be a proliferation of willingness for self-violence in advocating causes, with some movement towards acts of sabotage and, among the unstable, towards violence against their societies in general.

(D) Detailed problems