bosnet-digest V5 #86 / Monday, 4 March 1996
From: Dzevat Omeragic <dzevat@EE.MCGILL.CA>
 On the irrelevance of gas chambers
 On the irrelevance of gas chambers
From: Steven Albert <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
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
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.