LOS ANGELES (Jul. 10)
United States Federal Court Judge Pamela Ann Rymer has refused to grant the motion by the attorneys of accused Nazi war criminal Andrija Artukovic, now a resident of Seal Beach, California, to dismiss a precedent-seeking class action lawsuit brought against him by five Holocaust survivors, the Simon Wiesenthal Center reported today.
The motion came in the wake of a comprehensive presentation by Washington-based attorney Michael Hausfeld, who summarized the legal basis for the historic class action. Citing precedents in international law in the area of torture, as well as a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 1860’s which upheld personal responsibility for violation of these laws, Hausefeld stated that it was the consensus of civilized nations that the victims of these unprecedented crimes have a right to seek redress against alleged Nazi war criminals in U.S. courts.
Artukovic was the former Minister of the Interior of the Nazi puppet state of Croatia (part of present-day Yugoslavia) and is allegedly responsible for the murder of more than 700,000 Serbians, 40,000 Gypsies and 25,000 Jews during World War II. A U.S. resident for over 30 years, Artukovic has been involved in an on-going legal battle to be deported for his crimes.
Last fall, the Wiesenthal Center had been approached by a group of attorneys who offered to donate their time and expertise in the hope of opening up a new front in the battle against Nazi war criminals in the U.S. The Center located five Jewish Holocaust survivors from Yugoslavia who are now citizens of the U.S. to testify in the case against Artukovic.
At the hearing in Los Angeles, Housfeld was joined by attorney Martin Mendelsohn, former director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations and now the legal counsel for the Wiesenthal Center in Washington, D.C. During the conclusion of yesterday’s proceedings, Judge Rymer called upon both sides to present additional written briefs in advance of any decision to approve the class action. The court also accepted a brief in support of the Center’s action by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.