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bosnet-digest V5 #86 / Monday, 4 March 1996

From: Dzevat Omeragic <dzevat@EE.MCGILL.CA>

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory


  • [01] On the irrelevance of gas chambers

  • [01] On the irrelevance of gas chambers

    From: Steven Albert <>

    The appointment of Canadian Judge Louise Arbour to replace Judge Richard Goldstone as the chief prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague makes it unlikely that those responsible for the genocide in Bosnia will ever be brought to justice.

    As our readers well know, no real attempt has been made to arrest Dr Radovan Karadzic or General Ratko Mladic. These indicted war criminals have made public statements, have been seen by sighted on numerous occasions. No serious observer believes that 60,000 NATO troops could not apprehend them if they so desired. One can only applaud the moral courage of Judge Goldstone who has continued to insist that the people indicted by the tribunal be taken into custody and the evidence of their crimes not be destroyed.

    Moral courage is a rare quality today. For four years the leaders of the civilised world witnessed genocide in Bosnia and did nothing to stop it. Had Judge Goldstone not taken his function seriously, the charges against those who planned the destruction of Bosnia might well have remained a symbolic gesture of no real consequence.

    Judge Goldstone's departure from the tribunal is a cause for concern. The person who replaces him must have the political will to insist that the arrest of war criminals is a top priority,worth the sacrifice of soldier's lives and political stability that it might entail. She must understand the nature of genocide and feel passionately that the planned destruction of a people, whether it be the Tutsis of Rwanda or the Bosnians, is a grave threat to the rule of international law.

    The quick appointment of Ms. Arbour and the fact that Security Council made no real attempt to scrutinise her writings or question her on her fitness for the job should be a added cause for concern.

    Ms. Arbour previous writings on the subject of genocide shows that she has little or no understanding of what that word means. She wrote the majority opinion of the Ontario Court of Appeals reaffirming the acquittal of Imre Finta , a Canadian citizen who in 1944 was a member of the Hungarian gendarmerie in charge of a brick yard in Szedeg from which Hungarian Jews were loaded on trains and sent to Auschwitz. Under Canadian law Mr Finta could be charged with the crimes he allegedly committed as if he had committed those crimes in Canada. The Crown appeal was based in part on the refusal of the presiding judge to allow the jury to hear evidence about the existence of Auschwitz.

    Ms. Arbour wrote the following about 'whether the existence of gas chambers and extermination camps was relevant':

    "Initially the Crown to sought to adduce evidence concerning the extermination process at the death camp at Auschwitz. Some of the Jews deported by train from Szeged were taken to Auschwitz. The issue had little,if any relevance to the case against Finta as it was not alleged by the Crown that Finta had any involvement in,or knowledge of the the operation of that camp. The trial judge had the discretion to exclude that evidence when tendered by the Crown,and in our view did not err in so doing."

    Anyone with any knowledge of the way in which the Nazis murdered 6,000,000 Jews would have known that the planners of the 'Final Solution' designed their system of murder so that their underlings could deny that they knew ultimate fate of the Jews. It was impossible,however,for someone in Mr. Finta's position in Hungary in 1944 to have a fairly good idea of what would happen to the Jews he deported. Under the criteria cited by Ms. Arbour, Mr. Finta would have had to have herded Jews into the gas chambers to have been convicted. To demand that someone be fully aware of every stage of the 'extermination process' (Ms. Arbour's euphemism for murder) in order to be guilty of a crime is to make the prosecution of war crimes impossible. That is why 2 to of the 5 judges of the Court of Appeal voted to reverse the Finta acquittal.

    As her writing attests, Ms. Arbour has not got the faintest idea of what it means for a state to plan the mass extermination of a people. After reading the decision in the Finta case,one can only have the gravest concern about her ability to successfully prosecute those responsible for deaths of thousands of Bosnians and Rwandans.

    Stephen Albert

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