Back to Africa Check

No, Nuremberg Code doesn’t say mask mandates are war crimes

“What specifically does the Nuremberg Code lay out in Article 6 Section 3 regarding war crimes?” asks a screenshot of a tweet doing the rounds on Facebook in South Africa in January 2022.

It then quotes from “Article 6: Section 3”, with a paragraph circled in red:

Leaders should be aware that mandating masks on the citizens of a nation and preventing their access to food, healthcare, transport or education is a war crime. Masks or any other medical intervention must remain voluntary.

The tweet includes the hashtags #NurembergCode and #NurembergTrialsForCovid.

The Nuremberg Code was developed in 1947 after the USA put 23 Nazi medical doctors and administrators on trial for experiments on people.

“During World War II, a number of German physicians conducted painful and often deadly experiments on thousands of prisoners without their permission,” says the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

“Considering the inhumane conditions, lack of consent, and questionable research standards, modern scientists overwhelmingly reject the use of results from experiments in the camps.”

Although the code’s legal force is not established, it has become a standard for global medical ethics – particularly its provision that “the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential” in any permissible medical experiment.

nuremberg_false

Mask mandates to slow spread of Covid pandemic

Countries across the world have passed laws requiring that people wear masks in public to help slow the spread of Covid. Several more recommend masks. Only a few – including Greenland, Sweden, Belarus and Sudan – have no recommendation or requirement for masks.

South Africa’s Covid regulations state: “The wearing of a face mask is mandatory for every person when in a public place excluding a child under the age of six years and any person who fails to comply with a verbal instruction by an enforcement officer to wear a face mask, commits an offence and is, on conviction, liable to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

But is the paragraph in the screenshot taken from the Nuremberg Code? And does the code say that “mandating masks on the citizens of a nation” is a war crime, and that masks “must remain voluntary”?

No mention of masks in code

The full text of the Nuremberg Code is widely available online, republished by reputable sources such as universities, research journals and holocaust memorial institutions.

The code has 10 points or standards. It is not arranged by sections or articles, so there is no “Article 6: Section 3”.

And the paragraph quoted in the screenshot does not appear anywhere in the code. The code does not mention masks, or food, healthcare, transport and education. It discusses “medical experiments” only – not “medical interventions”.

The screenshot’s claim is false.

A mask doesn't only protect the wearer from Covid – it protects those around them too. As the US Centers for Disease Control says: “When you wear a mask, you protect others as well as yourself. Masks work best when everyone wears one.”

 

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.