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November 03, 1989 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-11-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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While endorsing the rec-
ommendations of the report,
Home Secretary Douglas
Hurd (now foreign secre-
tary), deferred a decision un-
til parliament had had an
opportunity to debate the
matter and express its
views.
That debate will reach a
climax in the coming month,
when parliamentarians will
be asked to vote on whether
they wish to follow the ex-
ample of Canada and
Australia and make the
legislative changes that will
allow war-crimes suspects to
be indicted in British courts.
The proposed changes are
far-reaching and will affect
the judicial process in two
ways. -

First, they will allow
British courts to try suspects
who were not British at the
time of their alleged
offenses, whose offenses did
not occur on British soil and
whose victims were not
British.

Second, they will affect the
rules of evidence, allowing
videotaped or satellite
testimony from witnesses,
mostly in Eastern bloc coun-
tries, who are unable or un-
willing to attend court hear-
ings in Britain.

The issue has attracted as
much heat as light, with
both sides debating the issue
vigorously through the
media.
Merlyn Rees, chairman of
the parliamentary war
crimes group and himself a
former home secretary, con-
fesses to being somewhat
pessimistic about the
chances of success of British
legislators approving the
proposed changes.
The gathering at the Royal
Westminster Hotel is
designed not only to answer
those who oppose war crimes
trials but also to bolster its
supporters and raise con-
sciousness among those who
have not yet been outraged
that they have, unwittingly,
allowed war criminals to
find a safe haven in Britain.
The ultimate objective is to
tip the balance in favor of
that vital legislation that
will clear away the obstacles
and allow war crimes trials
to begin in Britain.
Sher, the only Jewish
member of the panel of war
crimes specialists, debunks
an argument that has gain-

ed momentum among some,
including elements within
the British Jewish com-
munity, that war crimes
trials will provoke a fresh
wave of anti-Semitism.
"Don't back off because
someone threatens you," he
says. "Prosecuting Nazi
criminals doesn't create an-
ti-Semitism. Only anti-
Semites create anti-
Semitism, and if it's not this
issue it will be something
else."
But it is the experiences of
the Australian and Cana-
dian delegates that are, in
some ways, more pertinent
to Britain's predicament
than that of the United
States, whose legislation
stops short of prosecution
and permits only
denaturalization and depor-
tation proceedings of war
crimes suspects.
Both Canada and
Australia have taken the
further step of enacting
legislation that enables
their own courts to bring
criminal charges against
Nazi suspects. While
Canada has chosen to retain
the option of de-
naturalization and deporta-
tion, Australia decided
against it.
"That option didn't appeal
to us because the countries
to which deportees would be
extradited still retain the
death penalty," says Robert
Greenwood.
The question now is
whether Britain's
parliamentarians will be
sufficiently moved by the
horrific evidence collected by
Sir Thomas Hetherington
and sufficiently impressed
by the arguments of the pro-
trial lobby to vote for legisla-
tion that will allow trials to
get underway in Britain.
On his way to the Royal
Westminster Hotel for last
week's meeting, Efraim
Zuroff stopped off at the
Home Office in Whitehall to
present British officials with
the latest fruit of his labors
— the name of yet another
suspect living in England,
and the promise of more to
come.
After all the time and
energy he has devoted to his
quest, the 41-year-old Nazi
hunter simply cannot bear to
contemplate defeat: "The
British stood alone against
the Nazis," he says. "Can
they now stand alone in
refusing to bring Nazi
criminals to justice?" ❑

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

41

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