Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Terror Justice in Medieval Europe: The Vemgerichts

If any one is summoned to appear before a court in a democratic world today they can be fairly sure that the court procedure will be quite clean but this was not the case in the Medieval Europe. During the Middle Ages Jurisdiction was divided between many individual. Judgment was pronounced according to a variety of laws, and crimes of the some were unpunished. As a result the nobles were took charge of protection their own rights and the bloody feuds were the order of the day.
In 13th century, In Europe there was no strong imperial power which increased the in severity in matters of law. By that time a form of Jurisdiction developed in WestPhalia, in West Germany, Which gained more influence for the next 200 years. The Veme meaning either cooperative or punishment coupled with the word Gericht or law, a new court was born.
The vemgerichts are the local court6 administered by the noble men. The “Jurisdiction of Blood” – the authority to sit in judgment over life and death- had been granted to these men by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. In 13th century courts came under the control of a Bishop or a Prince. He authorized the noble man to occupy the bench and to pass judgments with the help of several lay judges. Normally there may be seven judges and if the criminal was caught red handed then three lay judges was sufficient. The lay judges must be of good reputation and they had to born in West Phalia.
Most of the cases investigated by the Vemgerichts were murder and robbery not only denying recourse to legal action, the judgments of Vemgerichts could only be acquittal or death. The deliberation took place according to the rules only known to the judges. The public was excluded. The execution of death sentence was carried out on spot, using a rope strung up on the tree next to them.

The secrecy behind the proceedings gave rise rumors. The lay judges were secret group of masked hench men and they were making their judgments and they were making their judgment in remote places mostly under lime tree. It was commonly known that many of the accused were tortured during the trials. Even though these courts became very popular and the criminals of far off places brought to the Vemgerichts for trials. If the accused did not appear, they become vervemt and these out laws could be executed as soon as the lay judges caught them. Because of their power the courts grew strong and many Vemgerichts became corrupt characters.
But by the 15th century the legal agreement between the cities and the princes reduced their powers and reputation so that the vemgericht lost their fame and importance.

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