Australian War Crimes Trial Indefinitely Postponed by Court

Australia’s first war crimes trial, which was to have opened nearly two months ago, has been indefinitely postponed and, chances are, may never take place.

High Court Justice Mary Gaudron ruled this week that a constitutional challenge to the War Crimes Act had “some prospects of success” and further proceedings at this stage could prejudice the defendant’s rights.

The challenge was mounted by lawyers representing accused Nazi war criminal Ivan Polyukhovich, the first person indicted under a recent statute that allows Australian courts to try war crimes suspects for offenses committed on foreign soil.

It will be heard later this year. If successful, the government will have to consider other options, including extradition.

Polyukhovich, 74, has been charged with 25 counts of murder during World War II and with being knowingly concerned with the deaths of 850 other people, including no fewer than 533 Jews in the Nazi-occupied Ukraine.

He was found with a self-inflicted bullet wound in his chest on a street in Adelaide, South Australia, on the night of July 29. His trial, scheduled to begin the following day, was postponed to Aug. 27.

It was put off again pending a decision on the constitutionality of the war crimes law.

Judge Gaudron ruled that the charges should not be considered until the larger legal issues were resolved.

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