540 years ago on this date, May 9, 1474, a German Military and Civil Commander, Peter Von Hagenbach, was beheaded for war crimes. Despite the fact there was no explicit use of a doctrine of command responsibility it is seen as the first trial based on that principle. I will post the information about him from Wikipedia and other links.
|Hagenbach on trial, from Berner Chronik des Diebold Schilling dem Älteren.|
Peter von Hagenbach (or Pierre de Hagenbach or Pietro di Hagenbach or Pierre d’Archambaud or Pierre d'Aquenbacq, circa 1420 – May 9, 1474) was a Bourguignon knight from Alsace and Germanic military and civil commander.
He was born into an Alsatian-Burgundian family, originally from Hagenbach and owned a castle there.
He was instated as bailiff of Upper Alsace by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, to administer the territories and rights in Upper Alsace which had been mortgaged by Duke Sigmund of Further Austria for 50,000 florins in the Treaty of St. Omer in 1469. There he coined the term Landsknecht—from German, Land ("land, country") + Knecht ("servant"). It was originally intended to indicate soldiers of the lowlands of the Holy Roman Empire as opposed to the Swiss mercenaries. As early as 1500 the misleading spelling of Lanzknecht became common because of the association with Lanze ("lance").
Following a rebellion by towns of the Upper Rhine against his tyranny, Hagenbach was put on trial for the atrocities committed during the occupation of Breisach, found guilty of war crimes, and beheaded at Breisach am Rhein. His trial by an ad hoc tribunal of the Holy Roman Empire in 1474, was the first “international” recognition of commanders’ obligations to act lawfully. He was convicted of crimes "he as a knight was deemed to have a duty to prevent." He defended himself by arguing that he was only following orders, from the Duke of Burgundy to whom the Holy Roman Empire had given Breisach. Despite the fact there was no explicit use of a doctrine of command responsibility it is seen as the first trial based on that principle.