Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

AIJAC welcomes Minister's decision on accused Nazi war criminal

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13 November 2009

 

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein today welcomed the decision of Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor to allow the extradition of suspected Nazi war criminal Charles Zentai.

Dr Rubenstein said, "Mr Zentai has been charged with very serious crimes by Hungarian authorities. He is alleged to have tortured and murdered an 18 year old Jew, Peter Balasz, simply because he was not wearing his yellow star. Hungary is, like Australia, a democratic state governed by the rule of law, and would not seek extradition without sufficient grounds. A trial there will give Mr Zentai the chance to clear his name"

Dr Rubenstein went on to comment on arguments that it was too late to act now, due to the length of time since the alleged offences, and Mr Zentai's age. "Age is no barrier to the pursuit of justice. There is no statute of limitations on murder, and especially for participation in genocide, and our sympathies should be with the victims and their families," he said.

"Last year, 83 year old Michael Seifert was extradited from Canada to Italy having been convicted in absentia of war crimes, while a German prosecutor announced he would commence legal proceedings against 86 year old Heinrich Boere for allegedly shooting dead three unarmed Dutch civilians. Germany is currently trying 89 year old John Demjanjuk for war crimes, following his deportation from the USA in May this year. By continuing with legal action, the civilised world shows that there is absolutely no tolerance for these heinous crimes, and that they will never be forgotten. Regardless of the passage of time, it is incumbent on all nations as a matter of principle to do their utmost to ensure that crimes relating to the Holocaust do not go unpunished.

"We can either give up on the quest for justice or we can pursue Nazi war criminals. Continuing to pursue them sends a message that we will never condone their behaviour. Giving up sends the opposite message. Consideration should also be given not only to the family of Mr Zentai, but also to the families of the Holocaust victims. Last year authorities quite rightly offered a $100,000 reward for Elmer Crawford, who murdered his family of four 38 years ago, so surely we should still be trying to catch those who participated in the murder of 6 million.

"Furthermore, 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.

"We hope to see justice expeditiously served in this case as soon as possible," Dr Rubenstein concluded.

For enquiries, call Dr Colin Rubenstein on (03) 9681 6660 or Jeremy Jones on (02) 9360 5415

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