It should be no surprise that many countries have committed many atrocities over the centuries. But in this article we're going to cover war crimes that have happened between the start of the 20th century and today (with one American Civil War exception). And even then, only putting fifteen examples is a very small number. Especially given that, during World War II alone, there were probably more atrocities than in the seventeen years we've been in this 21st century.
So bloody, and appalling was World War II that about half of the entries in this article are from that period. And while the Third Reich could easily fill up fifteen entries, several of the atrocities here were actually committed by the Allies!
From the American, and Nigerian civil wars, to the experimentation and extermination of specific peoples by Japan and Germany. And from Abu Ghraib, and nuclear annihilation, to ISIS, this piece is chock full of grizzly war crimes that you really just don't want to Google. And there's every reason why not to. Each of these atrocities deals with starvation, rape, chemical warfare, murder of men, women, and children for sport...and that's before getting to the piles of dead in mass graves, and roadsides...and those piles are often of pieces, rather than people.
15 ISIS: Torture & Murder Of Civilians
Alright, so the so-called "War on Terror" is a little vague at best, to begin with. And given that, everything that a terrorist does is a crime. And given that this is a so-called war, one could make the argument that these are war crimes. Though not in the official definition. So these four men hanging by chains are, at the point of this photo, still alive. Shia resistance fighters, alleged to be spies, these men were strung up by ISIS, and subsequently burned alive as they hung. A fire being lit beneath them. This was apparently in response to a Shia video of an ISIS supported being burned over a fire pit. So of course ISIS is not the only group committing atrocities these days, but given their incredible number of tortures, executions, and mass shootings...there is every reason to include them in this list of war-crime-committing groups.
14 Japan: The Assault Of Nanking
War had broken out between Japan and China in 1937, and Japan ravaged China. One such incident was the conquering of the Chinese capital, Nanking. For six weeks after the taking of the city, Japanese soldiers indiscriminately slaughtered the population. As many as 300,000 people (mostly civilians) were killed. And it's not just the killing...it's the torture beforehand, and the methods of killing, that truly make this a war crime. From the incredible amount of rape (even of children), to the catching of babies on bayonets, and then ultimately the use of civilians as target practise. Some were buried alive, while others were covered in oil and set alight. The whole event was so disturbing that the head of the Nazi party there, John Rabe, was appalled. He even became the head of the International Safety Zone in the area!
13 Congo: Child Soldiers
Sure, these kids might just be playing on and around the tank, but that's not to say these kids won't end up with guns in hand in the very near future. Child soldiers have been incredibly prevalent in conflicts in Africa (heavily in the Congo, Sudan, and Rwanda). And the life of a child soldier is one of constant physical, and drug abuse. The Congo, specifically, has been at war since the early nineties. While no longer officially at war, rebel groups are still active. From its outset in 1994, up until 2011, there have been an estimated 2 million rapes associated with the war. This was an apparent military strategy, in order to culturally ostracize, and terrorize people into submission. The figures estimate an average of 1,100 rapes per month during this war. And with that rape came both torture, and mutilation.
12 Germany: T4 Euthanasia Program
There are many war crimes that could be attributed to Nazi Germany. As stated in the introduction, a whole article could be done...and there would still be plenty left to choose from. One of the most villainous war crimes though, would be the T4 Euthanasia program. Those adults with disabilities, or special needs (as featured above) were simply rounded up and either sent against the Allies, or killed. But the T4 program was different. It was the rounding up of children three and under, who had disabilities or special needs. There were even notices sent out to families. The notices gave the impression that their children would be a part of some treatment, or study...but that was absolutely not the case. Each and every child who was delivered to the specific "treatment" centres, was killed by the Third Reich. Part of making Germany perfect.
11 United States: Rheinwiesenlager
So this might garner no sympathy from some, simply because this occurred in a section of nineteen POW camps for German soldiers during WWII. But it is worth noting that Germany wasn't the only country committing heinous crimes against humanity. Basically, the United States couldn't fully supply, and maintain the up to 2 million prisoners of war they had in these camps. Because of this, many thousands of the people you see in the photo above eventually starved to death. Or died of dehydration, or exposure. Poor record keeping holds the true figures out of reach, but the estimated deaths range anywhere from 10,000, to well over 100,000. While this should have been a war crime, President Eisenhower's superficial claim that these prisoners were "Disarmed Enemy Forces" worked as a loophole through the Geneva Convention.
10 Japan's Unit 731: Experimentation
If you're wondering what's happening above, this is chemical exposure. More specifically, this is chemical exposure by the Japanese Unit 731 on a helpless Chinese prisoner (likely a civilian). But spraying people with chemicals for weapons testing wasn't the only thing this unit did during WWII. Men, women, and children were used for target practise for flamethrowers, grenades, and other explosives. They were also exposed to the plague, cholera, smallpox, as well as several venereal diseases. They were even used for frostbite testing. Even worse than that, vivisections took place, without any hint of anesthetic (that's basically the exploratory surgery of a conscious, living person). Just at one camp alone, over 250,000 people were killed. And were the culprits charged for crimes against humanity? Nope, they were let off by the U.S. in exchange for their experimental research...
9 Nigeria: Civil War Starvation
This photo ought to be horrifying enough to dissuade people from searching much more. The bloat on these starving children says it all. Essentially, a region of Nigeria decided to part ways with the country, and declared independence. It did not take long for the Nigerian government to surround the region with troops, blocking the area from aid. This led to the starvation of 500,000, to 3 million men, women, and children in the region. There were estimations of up to 10,000 dead per day! This is what the Nigerian government had to say at a peace conference about the "rebels": “Starvation is a legitimate weapon of war and we have every intention of using it against the rebels.” That's almost a tenth of the population of Canada's Capital city of Ottawa, every week!
8 United States: Abu Ghraib
This is perhaps one of the ugliest crimes that the United States has ever committed, without ever really facing the music. It's nuts to think about. After taking over this Iraqi facility where torture had been a regular part of the day...the Americans did the same thing! They tortured prisoners in obscene ways. Threatening with attack dogs, dragging men by ropes attached to their genitals! And that's before getting to the smearing of feces all over the inmates, raping them, and even pouring phosphoric acid on them! This is truly one of the most disgusting, certainly unjustifiable war crimes ever perpetrated by the U.S. The photo above shows a hooded, Muslim man in an almost Christ-like position. Attached to his fingers and neck are electric wires. This one man has become the poster boy for the atrocity. If for no other reason than this photo is likely the least graphic.
7 Armenian Genocide
In the above photo there is seen an Ottoman official, dangling bread over several starving children. Taunting the starving, the official gives them nothing. The Armenian genocide is still not recognized by Turkey as a genocide...but everyone else knows what it was. Starting with the murder of intellectuals (this might remind some of another genocide perpetrated a couple decades later), the Ottomans began a systematic slaughter. Killing specifically Christian Armenians, all the able-bodied men were simply massacred. The women, children, and elderly however...they may have met a worse fate, in many cases. They were marched into the Syrian desert, never to return. This was all done under the guise of fighting against pro-Russian traitors, and insurgents during WWI. Which meant they couldn't simply kill the women, children, and elderly; they had to "deport" them...into the desert.
6 South Korea: Bodo League Massacre
During the Korean war, the South Koreans went on the hunt for Communists, and Communist sympathizers. Between 100,000 and 200,000 people were gathered up, slaughtered, and tossed into mass graves to be put out of sight and mind. All of this was done without trial. There was no defense for those suspected. They were simply taken, killed, and buried with thousands of others, who may or may not have been Communists. Korean forces threatened death on anyone who spoke out about the atrocity. And this worked very well as it was discovered until the opening of a mass grave in the 90s that the Koreans had done this. It was simply blamed on Communist aggression. And this was a sufficient cover story before 1990. All it took was a little red scare to fill trenches with red.
5 United States: Dachau Camp Killings
So it might make sense to some readers just why this happened. But here it is: When the Americans came to liberate the Dachau camp, they immediately, along with those Jews who were strong enough, took the SS guards and beat, and executed them. It didn't matter to them that these guards were unarmed. They saw the bodies strewn about the train cars, and they went to town. But the thing is, these SS men were not the ones who ran the camp, or abused the prisoners there. Those men had left days before, knowing that the war was lost. These men were sent with the sole purpose of surrendering the camp to the Allies. And because of this, they were beaten and shot to death. As it turns out, no one was ever brought up on charges, or relieved of duty for the incident. I suppose the American higher-ups didn't see it as any crime at all.
4 Bosnian Serbs: Srebrenica Massacre
Above are people reenacting an image of one of the mass graves made during the Bosnian War. They are paying their respects to the memory of those who died in the Srebrenica Massacre. This has since been called a genocide. This took place in 1995, and was the biggest mass slaughter since WWII. Over 8,000 Bosnian men, and boys (all Muslim), were gathered up and killed, systematically. The mass graves into which they were thrown were even dug up, and the bodies were buried elsewhere to cover up the crimes after the war. What makes matters even worse is that in 1993, Srebrenica was declared a safe zone. Unfortunately 370 Dutch peacekeepers could not truly stop the sweeping Bosnian Serb army from entering the so-called safe zone, and laying its inhabitants to waste.
3 United States: My Lai
If it seems like the United States is getting a bad rap in this article, it is simply to show that there were other crimes throughout the 20th century that did not have to do with Nazi Germany...and because the images of these crimes are simply appalling. Especially My Lai. This little place in Southern Vietnam saw the slaughter 350-500 unarmed civilians! Many of the women were gang-raped by soldiers, and even mutilated. Killing was indiscriminate: including the killing of infants! There were apparently three servicemen who tried to stop the massacre...and they were subsequently shunned by the armed forces, and certain congressmen called them traitors! One single officer was convicted of murdering 22 civilians. He was given a life sentence...and served less than 4 years...under house arrest! This may not have the biggest body count, but this is certainly one of the most appalling war crimes to have gone unpunished.
2 Confederate Army: Camp Sumter
Here is an appalling war crime that did not go unpunished. And this is the only crime in this article to have happened before the twentieth century. Back, during the American Civil War, there was only one man charged, and convicted of war crimes. Confederate Henry Wirz. He ran a Union POW camp. The camp was meant to hold 10,000 prisoners. But Wirz stuffed in over 30,000! there was a cesspool in the centre of camp which was essentially the sink, and tub of the entire population...so disease was rampant. By the end of the war, over a third of the prison population had perished. This was due to starvation, diarrhea, scurvy, and dysentery. Imagine being forced onto the edges of that cesspool...bathing in the refuse of 30,000 other inmates. Wirz' excuse was that he was simply following orders. But we all know that defense doesn't always cut a deal. Wirz was hanged the following year.
1 United States: Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Ok, so this one just could have gone without saying, but I don't think the true human aspect of this crime is ever really focused on. It was a great technological achievement, and many say it won the war against Japan (though they would have given up without Germany, for sure). Regardless, between 90,000 and 146,000 people were killed in Hiroshima. 39,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki. And apparently at least half of each died on the first day. So that's about 80,000 people, at least, being vaporized on impact of the bombs. Then the shock-wave kills thousands more. Then after that, the fallout, and radioactive poisoning kills many thousands more still! And most of these were civilians! Imagine images of charred children, and infants dying of exposure to radiation. Don't Google it. Just imagine it. You're better off that way.