TORONTO (May. 18)
Canadian Justice Minister Kim Campbell has informed Parliament that a 22-month deadline has been set to complete current investigations of alleged Nazi war criminals living in Canada.
Campbell made the disclosure to the House of Commons Justice Committee last week when pressed about the government’s inaction on pending war crimes cases.
She said a March 1994 deadline was “the target date we have set for ourselves” to complete as many investigations as possible.
Her remark immediately drew a warning from Paul Marcus, director of B’nai Brith Canada’s Institute for International Affairs, that “there must be no time limits on justice.”
Campbell declined to specify the number of current cases. She said the investigative unit has been given more resources and stressed that there is “a strong commitment within our department to get those investigations completed by that date.”
The justice minister differed with House Justice Committee Chairman Robert Kaplan of the opposition Liberal Party, who asked why the government has not taken action in any of the 45 high-priority cases cited in 1989 by Bill Hobson, then head of the Justice Department’s war crimes unit.
According to Campbell, Hobson erred if he said 45 cases were under investigation and that charges soon would be brought against alleged war criminals in Canada.
“I can’t believe he said that because that could not be true,” she told reporters later.
But she rejected suggestions that rooting out alleged war criminals from the havens they found in Canada is no longer a priority of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government.
Marcus, meanwhile, said that “creating a March 1994 target date will hopefully provide incentive to accelerate the process. However, alleged Nazi war criminals living in Canada must face justice regardless of when evidence of their crimes is uncovered.”
Canada’s record has not been encouraging. It has successfully pursued only one case to date. In 1983, when Kaplan was solicitor general, Albert Helmut Rauca of Toronto was extradited to West Germany to stand trial for the killing of 11,585 Jews in the ghetto of Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania.
But since the Canadian Criminal Code was amended in 1987 to permit Canadian courts to try suspected war criminals, only three cases have come to trial. Charges were dropped in two of them and the third suspect was acquitted.