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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prepares to welcome Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen at EU headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (Pascal Rossignol, Pool Photo via AP) European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prepares to welcome Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen at EU headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (Pascal Rossignol, Pool Photo via AP)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prepares to welcome Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen at EU headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (Pascal Rossignol, Pool Photo via AP)

Monique Curet
By Monique Curet December 7, 2021

European leader did not say the Nuremberg Code should be disregarded

If Your Time is short

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, did not say the Nuremberg Code should be disregarded and did not mention the treaty in a Dec. 1, 2021, press conference.

Von der Leyen called for a discussion about mandatory COVID-19 vaccination within the European Union, as a way to increase vaccination rates.

A viral story misrepresented comments by the leader of the European Commission about mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.

The story in the Post Millennial included the headline, "SHOCKING: In the wake of Austria’s drastic lockdown of unvaccinated people, EU chief calls for throwing out Nuremberg Code." The beginning of the Dec. 2 story says, "Ursula Van Der Leyen, the head of the EU commission, told the press on Wednesday that she is in favour of scrapping the long-standing Nuremberg Code and forcing people to get vaccinated against COVID."

The story, which misspelled von der Leyen's name, was shared via Instagram and was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) The Instagram post included the caption, "Remember a year ago when people called us crazy conspiracy theorists for suggesting things like this were on the horizon? If you’ve been quiet and politely compliant, it’s past time to be bold and end this evil!" 

During a Dec. 1, 2021, press conference, von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called for a discussion about mandatory COVID-19 vaccination within the European Union, as a way to increase vaccination rates. The Post Millennial story falsely equated those comments with a willingness to disregard the Nuremberg Code, a post-World War II treaty which includes the principle that humans should not be involuntarily subjected to medical experiments.

But von der Leyen did not say the Nuremberg Code should be disregarded and did not mention the treaty during the press conference.

A spokesperson for von der Leyen said it was not true that she called for throwing out the Nuremberg Code, and referenced video footage of the press conference.

Beginning at the 12:22 mark in the video, a reporter from the Greek Press Agency asked von der Leyen what her position is on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. The commission president answered that it is "pure member state competence," which means the decision rests with member states of the European Union.

She noted that one-third of the entire population in the European Union — 150 million people — are not vaccinated, though some are not eligible, such as very young children.

Then, at the 14:12 mark, von der Leyen said, "I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now, how we can encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union. This needs discussion, this needs a common approach, but it is a discussion that I think has to be led."

The Post Millennial story’s reference to the Nuremberg Code appears to stem from false claims that COVID-19 vaccinations are a violation of the Nuremberg code. After World War II, some people were charged under the treaty with carrying out forced medical experimentation.

Experts have said such claims are based on a false premise that COVID-19 vaccinations are medical experiments. The vaccines were tested on volunteer participants in clinical trials that met acceptable legal and ethical standards.

Our ruling

A story headline says, "SHOCKING: In the wake of Austria’s drastic lockdown of unvaccinated people, EU chief calls for throwing out Nuremberg Code."

The European Commission's president, von der Leyen, called for discussion about mandatory vaccination within the European Union, as a way to increase vaccination rates. Those comments were falsely equated with a willingness to disregard the Nuremberg Code. She did not say the Nuremberg Code should be disregarded.

And COVID-19 vaccinations are not a violation of the Nuremberg code. The post grossly distorted comments von der Leyen made in an effort to make it sound as though she did something "shocking" by supporting the kind of forced medical experimentation that was implemented during the Holocaust. She said no such thing.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire! 

 

Our Sources

Email interview, Darragh Cassidy, press officer - health, European Commission Spokesperson’s Service, Dec. 7, 2021

European Commission, Audiovisual Service, "EC press conference by European Commission President Ursula von der LEYEN and Commissioner Stella KYRIAKIDES on addressing together new COVID-19 challenges," Dec. 1, 2021

Instagram post, Dec. 5, 2021

PolitiFact, "COVID-19 vaccination does not violate the Nuremberg Code," Aug. 20, 2021

Post Millennial, "SHOCKING: In the wake of Austria's drastic lockdown of unvaccinated people, EU chief calls for throwing out Nuremberg Code," Dec. 2, 2021


 

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European leader did not say the Nuremberg Code should be disregarded

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