Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

AIJAC welcomes action on suspected Nazi war criminal

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18 January 2005

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council today welcomed news that authorities in both Australia and Hungary are investigating suspected Hungarian Nazi war criminal Karoly or Charles Zentai, currently living in Perth following the disclosure of evidence by famed Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem. "There is considerable eyewitness testimony that Zentai took part in the murder of an eighteen year old Jewish boy named Peter Balazs in Budapest on November 8 1944. Two accomplices involved in the murder were convicted after the Holocaust. Zentai was not tried because he escaped from Hungary after the war," AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein noted.

"This crime took place 60 years ago, but there is no statute of limitations on murder and especially on crimes against humanity, and nor should there be," Dr Rubenstein stressed. "Australia has an extradition treaty with Hungary and I am confident that our government will act promptly to initiate extradition proceedings if the Hungarian government so requests, a course of action we trust they will take if the evidence points in that direction," he added.

Jeremy Jones, AIJAC Director of International Affairs, commented, "It is important to pursue these matters not only to bring the individual to justice, but to send a message to all those who committed war crimes in the Second World War and subsequent conflicts that this country is not and never will be a safe haven for war criminals."

Mr Jones also called for more to be done to track down war criminals hiding in Australia. "There are suspected criminals from the Balkans, Cambodia and Afghanistan currently residing in this country. Our government should quickly enact legislation allowing action to be taken in such cases, reinstitute the Special Investigations Unit to allow suspected war criminals to be thoroughly and expeditiously investigated and also consider providing a deportation option," he concluded.

For further information please contact Dr Colin Rubenstein on (03) 9681 6660 or 0418 339 721 or Jeremy Jones on (02) 9360 5415 or 0411 536 436.

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