The Nuremberg Code doesn’t state that mask mandates are a war crime

18 January 2022
What was claimed

Mask mandates preventing access to food, healthcare or education are a war crime, according to the Nuremberg Code.

Our verdict

This is false. The Nuremberg Code doesn’t say anything about masks.

A number of posts on Facebook have highlighted part of what they claim to be the Nuremberg Code, stating that mask mandates preventing people from accessing food, healthcare or education would be considered a war crime. 

The highlighted part of the code states: “Leaders should be aware that mandating masks on the citizens of a nation and preventing their access to food, healthcare, transport or education if they don’t comply, is a war crime. Masks or any other medical intervention must remain voluntary.”

But this is not part of the Nuremberg Code. A search through copies of the code, which can be found online, shows that masks are not mentioned in the text. 

The Code was created in Germany in 1947, following the trial of a group of Nazi doctors accused of conducting inhumane experiments on prisoners in concentration camps without their consent. The Nuremberg Code was developed in response to the horrors of this experimentation, with the specific aim of protecting human subjects in medical research. It does not cover the wearing of masks.

As we have written before the Nuremberg Code has been invoked throughout the pandemic, with many claims that prevention measures such as masks and lockdowns, or medical interventions such as vaccines, violate the code. 

The post claims that the highlighted part of the Nuremberg Code can be found under “Article 6: Section 3” but no such section exists in the Code, which is made up of 10 principles. The sixth section states: “The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.” 

The first principle of the Nuremberg Code, which the Facebook posts may allude to, is that “the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential” in medical experimentation. 

As Reuters has reported, part of the text in the post appears to originate from Article 6 of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights but is wrongly attributed to the Nuremberg Code. However, the second section of the post (quoted above) does not appear in the UNESCO text.

David Studdert, a professor of medicine and law at the University of Stanford, told Check Your Fact that claims made in very similar Facebook posts are false. 

He said: “Masks are not mentioned [in the Code]–nor, for that matter, is anything related to public health measures.”

Image courtesy of Engin Akyurt, via Unsplash.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because the text in the posts is not from the Nuremberg Code, which does not mention masks or public health interventions.

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