Is there any case in history where the leaders/officials of the winning country have been punished for war crimes? In most cases I can find of war crimes, the officials/leaders of the losing country are punished for war crime. Is it that the winning country rarely do any war crime or they are able to influence the authorities in their favour?

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    It's more the case that the winning side get to decide what is and isn't a war crime. The winners also get control of the evidence so anything incriminating gets 'lost'.
    – Steve Bird
    Aug 5, 2021 at 10:08
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    – MCW
    Aug 5, 2021 at 11:26
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    Can you clarify what you mean by a country being punished for war crimes? The payment of war reparations, if explicitely linked to war crimes? The unilateral payment of compensation, such as Germany recently agreed on with Namibia? The trial of high or low ranking perpetrators of war crimes, such as happened with Ante Gotovina?
    – Jan
    Aug 5, 2021 at 11:28
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    First off, countries aren't convicted of war crimes, the individual criminals are. Secondly, it isn't at all hard to find individuals whose nations won their active hostilities who got so convicted. There appear to be at least 6 living people who were US soldiers convicted in US courts of committing war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 5, 2021 at 13:20
  • @T.E.D. But e.g. in the Boxer Protocol there are specific actions prescribed that are linked to specific instances of criminal behaviour (murder of two diplomats). I believe this is quite close to what the OP asks, just that China/the Qing empire was on the losing side. Not sure how common such things are, however.
    – Jan
    Aug 5, 2021 at 14:11

2 Answers 2


I will assume you are looking for examples of someone of the victorious nation being punished by an international tribunal, not just by their own country's courts (because, as T.E.D. pointed out, there are many examples of that). It's rare, but it does happen. For example, Ante Gotovina, a key leader in Croatia's victorious military campaign in 1995, was later sentenced to 24 years in prison by an international court, and served some of that time (including several years being held pending trial, which further preceded by 4 years in hiding following his 2001 indictment) before the conviction was later overturned on appeal.

  • The point about Ante Gotovina is interesting, because it's an international court: what was the Croatia's attitude on that trial? Aug 7, 2021 at 10:26

Never. Winning countries have never been punished for war crimes. But Losing countries have never been either.

People of countries are convinced and punished for war crimes. High ranking officers of winning countries are rarely convinced of war crimes (can't think of an example), while it was often the case for some losing countries such as Japan or Germany.

Still, soldiers of winning countries have often been convinced of war crimes, and sometimes executed. Especially, whatever the army, and except for mass events (such as Nankin's rapes), soldiers convicted of rape are often punished as a war crime.

  • I think we can delete these comments! Aug 8, 2021 at 17:00

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