Statute of Limitations

Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs Donald Jamieson has assured the Canadian Jewish Congress that the government would bring the concerns of “many thousands of Canadians about the statute of limitations to the attention of the German government at the earliest suitable occasion.” Jamieson spoke in response to a letter from Rabbi Gunther Plaut, president of the CJC, urging Canada to join with the 21 member states of the Council of Europe in calling on West Germany not to permit the statute of limitations on war crimes prosecution to go into effect Jan. 1, 1980. The Bundestag (West German Parliament) is now debating this issue.

(Meanwhile, the Harvard Jewish Law Students Association announced that a petition containing the names of about 200 deans and faculty members of leading American law schools was delivered last Thursday to the West German consulates in Boston and New York urging repeal of the statute.

(One of the signatories, Prof. Alan M. Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, said the petition “indicates that the broadly-based consensus of the American legal community supports the extension or repeal of the statute of limitations. Few civilized countries have a statute of limitations even for simple murder. For Germany to, in effect, create a statute of limitations for genocidal murder violates commonly accepted principles of justice.”)

(In New York, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and Jacques Torczyner, a member of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization-American Section, predicted that “the extension of the statute of limitations for capital crimes will be adopted by the Bundestag by a slim majority.” Both men recently returned from a 10-day fact-finding visit to West Germany where they had meetings with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and with leaders of the Bundestag, the various political parties and leaders of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities.)

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