LONDON (Jun. 7)
The list of alleged war criminals residing in Britain grew Thursday as the government considered ways to break the deadlock over the War Crimes Bill, which was rejected by the House of Lords this week.
The bill could be pushed onto the statute books by invoking for the first time a 1949 act to stop peers from blocking legislation.
The War Crimes Bill would have permitted British courts to prosecute suspected war criminals for offenses committed abroad. It was defeated 207-74 on Tuesday in the House of Lords.
That set the stage for a constitutional crisis, since the measure was adopted March 19 in the House of Commons by an equally lopsided majority of 273-60.
Senior parliamentary sources told the Jewish Chronicle that the government was almost certain to press ahead with the bill.
The names of nine new suspects, said to be Lithuanian citizens who found refuge in England after the war, were given to the government Thursday by Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Israeli office of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust studies.
The center’s initial lists of alleged war criminals living in Britain triggered the inquiry that led to drafting the war crimes legislation.
Zuroff submitted the new names to Michael Boyle and Paul Regan, officials responsible for formulating Home Office policy on the prosecution of war criminals.
Commenting on the setback suffered in the House of Lords, Zuroff observed that had the lords “expressed one-tenth of the sensitivity for the victims that they showed to the perpetrators, the results would have been different.”
Many of the peers opposed the war crimes legislation because of the passage of time, the age of the suspects and because they felt it was motivated by retribution, not justice.
But the home secretary’s parliamentary private secretary, Martin Brandon-Bravo, who is Jewish, predicted that “the government will feel it has a duty to respond to the will of the House of Commons.”