He was not captured on the battlefield nor did he ever go to one. He was a naturalized citizen of the country he supported. He did not train to fight his captors nor did he carry arms against them. He did not fire a single shot, let alone one in anger, against any citizen or soldier. He did not give or otherwise make available, let alone sell any State Secret. Nevertheless, he was convicted of treason and hung on 3rd January, 1946, aged 39 years. I am referring to William Joyce (1906-1946) otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw who broadcast for the Nazis during WW2.
His crime was to comfort and support, and to aid and assist the enemies of the King of Britain (ie the citizens of Germany of which he was a naturalized citizen). He also had a British Passport and, even though it had been obtained using mis-stated information, it was held that it afforded him protection in Germany at the time of his offences. At the trial it was determined that there existed a well-recognised principle in international law that a State may exercise jurisdiction on the basis of protective principle where the safety and security of the State is threatened. Joyce certainly would not have acted in accordance with the precepts that we hold so dear to our hearts. He was not loyal to that country, England, which afforded its protection in those pre-war years. We can imagine the suffering of the English and other people during WW2 - but did justice, to which we subscribe, involve some retribution too?
If “aiding, comforting and supporting” can amount to treason, can we image how citizens of the United States felt after the 11th September attack people were taken into custody that had been trained and armed to fight? The circumstances were potentially far more aggressive than those ever surrounding William Joyce, where soldiers from their own country were deployed. Is the United States now not allowed to exercise that well established protective principle? It is an issue of how much liberty we are prepared to forgo for security?
I hold that the precepts to which we subscribe remain valid for an individual to use as a model for his life and actions. They can also induce others to behave the same way. But it would be difficult for them to be a substitute for laws dealing with offences against a nation. The Hiram story concludes with a stern warning.
Of course it’s alright to take up arms against a country and then, when things do not go your way, to seek its protection. I would just like to see priority be given to justice being done, which includes bringing an accused to trial without delay, and countries being allowed to protect their citizens and interests without issues being used for political popularism. I know that this is a naive hope.
Fraternal best wishes to all