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Jewish Australian Senator Moves to Expand War-crimes Legislation

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Australia’s hotly contested war-crimes legislation was further complicated last week when a retiring Jewish senator introduced an amendment that would vastly broaden its scope.

Sen. Peter Baume of the Liberal Party, before officially retiring on Dec. 21, moved that the law which allows Australian courts to prosecute Nazi war criminals residing in Australia be expanded to cover war criminals from any part of the world.

The constitutionality of the War Crimes Act is currently being challenged before Australia’s High Court.

The amendment offered by Baume got him in trouble with his party. For one thing, it could conceivably lead to charges against Australians involved in the Pacific war against Japan.

But the senator argued that the act should be expanded to cover people who “gave the orders” for atrocities such as the “massacres in Kampuchea (Cambodia) and South America.”

Baume’s amendment seems to have support only from a minor party, the Australian Democrats.

A medical doctor before he entered politics, Baume quit the Senate at age 55 to become a professor of community medicine at New South Wales University in Sydney.

When he was first elected, there were eight Jews in the federal or state parliaments.

With Baume’s retirement, there are none in the federal legislature and only one in a state house, Joe Berinson, who is attorney general of Western Australia.

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