|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Hylton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and the noble Lord, Lord Dacre of Glanton, both referred to the case of Mr. John Demjanjuk. It so happened that I found myself in January 1992 having breakfast in a hotel in Jerusalem with his American defence counsel. At that time, Mr. Demjanjuk had been convicted in a show trial in Israel of being, as has been mentioned, Ivan the Terrible, a Nazi concentration camp guard in the Ukraine. I am glad to say that that man was later cleared on appeal in Israel. It turned out to have been a case of mistaken identity.
I also happen to have been in contact with members of the groups known as the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Ulster Defence Regiment Four. The first two cases were heard before juries in England, while the third case was heard before a judge alone in Northern Ireland. All three of them were severe, serious cases of miscarriage of justice. They just go to show that, even in the most esteemed systems of justice, things can go wrong. Indeed, they can even go wrong when the cases are recent and are being tried relatively soon after the events in question.
In my view, there should be a worldwide period of limitation on the prosecution of serious crimes, including murder and genocide. I would suggest a period of 30 years. After all, that is the equivalent of one whole generation. To adopt such a period would be to follow the good precedent set by Belgium.
I trust that the Bill will receive a Second Reading. I support it at the same time as supporting the prosecution of recent war criminals for offences committed in such countries as Croatia and Bosnia. As a layman, I support
Lord Gridley: My Lords, I have not come to your Lordships' House today to be critical of the Government's actions in pursuing those who, in their opinion, were responsible for war crimes. However, I hope to be constructive and I am critical of the delay that has occurred in that operation. Looking back over that period, it seems to me that, basically, the Second World War was about preserving territorial boundaries, the preservation of people when under attack and the preservation of the freedom of those who were suffering in that respect. We also went to war 65 years ago to rid the world of Hitler's Germany and the brutal power wielded by his secret police over the European territories invaded, conquered and occupied by the Germans.
I speak with an interest in the matter because as an hereditary Peer one Christmas I was looked after by Tenno Heika the Emperor of Japan when I was interned in Changi Goal. He sent us some of his excellent brandy. Unfortunately some of us were suffering from sores due to malnutrition, so it was handed to our doctors to use to treat us.
In tonight's debate we have not considered whether it would be normal for people who are active, or those who are rather slow in pursuing obtaining evidence, to bring a suitable case against people in Scotland or Britain which would be evidence of past action during the war.
Also of relevance is the fact that one must realise that the secret police operated in Hitler's Germany. His so-called method of government was to use secret police in his own territory. When he occupied the territories of northern Europe, he brought those individuals with him. The peoples of occupied Europe suffered from the action taken by him in those territories, which lasted for six years until we had our victory.
When victory came I was amazed to find that those in occupation had used that kind of government in a country. Many people were in dire disorganisation; they were accusing one another of giving evidence against each other. Indeed, there existed grave disorganisation generally.
It seems to me that the only way we can get some evidencethat is, if it is obtainable and reliable after 50 yearswould be from those who had suffered. That is where the evidence would be. It would be extremely difficult to get it.
I am not privy to what is going on in Scotland or to the difficulty that people are finding there. However, generally it is very unwise or very unusual for the British to be slow in bringing charges against such people after a lapse of many years. I do not think that they would stand for it. I do not believe that it is acceptable in any court of law in Britain to delay such an action against a person who has to be tried. The
I wrote a great deal about what I was going to say. However, I have tried to meet the spirit of what has been said this evening. Some of the speeches have been quite brilliant. I do not feel capable of arguing the matter from the legal aspect. I can simply speak from my experience of those things about which I have felt so strongly since I have been back in this country. I see the wonderful things that are done or that people try to do and how we carry out our affairs generallyexcept, of course, what happens in the press. It is a fact that this is a fair place to be.
I remember when the victory came, I went outside and Mountbatten was there in all the glory of his naval uniform. A great load left my mind. There is nothing more terrible than to be defeated, to lose one's freedom and not to know what on earth will happen to get one out of the situation. How different at a time of victory! I am eternally grateful for the way in which we were rescued and for the action that this great country took in bringing that about. I only hope that the debate this evening, which I think and hope will be useful to the Government, will enable them to make things move faster than they are at present.
I praise my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway for having brought this matter to our attention again. I warmly support what he has said. I think that we must make some effort to take a decision on this matter and either convict people of crimes which they have committed or let them go free. That is the way that Britain carries out its affairs. I warmly hope, with all my heart, that we will adopt that course.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, in supporting my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, I should like first to say, as other noble Lords have said, that I have no wish to detract in any way from the wickedness of the crimes which we are discussing. I wish that the perpetrators had been caught quite a long time ago; but as many noble Lords have said, "caught" is the relevant word here.
In the 16th century I believe that it was a custom occasionally to dig up corpses and to try them. I suggest that if we keep this up much longer that is what we may have to do in this country. But, seriously, I ask how many more years will have to pass before we bury this matter and take more note of what is happening now in many parts of the world. However, if we must go back 50, 60 or 70 years we will find that Germany was not the only European country to practise mass terrorism. Lenin is quotedat a period before the events in Germanyas having said,
It is astonishing to me, and perhaps to other noble Lords, that in the course of these investigations we are discussing I apologise if I am wrongthe help of the KGB was enlisted. The KGB, as your Lordships well
The Hetherington Report gives a brief account of the activities of the NKVD in 1939-40 in the Baltic states and eastern Poland. The full horror of these activities stretches the imagination of those of us who have lived under civilised regimes. I would tell your Lordships in this context that my Polish mother-in-law, having seen her father and many others murdered by the NKVD, fled to the German occupied area of Poland as she thought it was safer than the Russian occupied area. It was not exactly a good area to go to but it was the best thing she could find. That gives one an idea of what it was like in the Soviet occupied area.
My point is this: at that time, crimes were committed by the German and Soviet authorities which beggar belief. Every day nowadays in the Ukraine and other areas of the former Soviet Union more evidence of atrocious Soviet crimes is coming to light. The mass graves at Katyn of Polish soldiers are by no means unique, and evidence of mass murder is being dug up everywhere. Yet no one has suggested that ex-members of the NKVD should be investigated. Some may be living here but not a finger has been lifted against them. Their crimes were as bad or worse as those of others, but they were on the winning side. Soviet judges actually sat on the Nuremberg tribunal. Perhaps they knew something about war crimes.
We would do far better to pay more attention to what is happening in the world today. On Monday the noble Earl, Lord Winchilsea, asked an Unstarred Question on Moroccan atrocities in the Western Sahara. This year appalling atrocities continue to be committed by countries most of which are members of the United Nations. There is Tibet, Rwanda, Bosnia and East Timor to mention but a few. There is a long list. It is nearly 50 years ago since the Gestapo and SS committed their last crimes. The perpetrators are old and almost impossible to identify. I believe we ought now to leave the judgment to Almighty God.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page