In a move that has angered Jewish officials here and in Australia, Canadian officials have delayed for two months a deportation hearing for suspected Latvian war criminal Konard Kalejs.
Kalejs, a Toronto resident and Australian citizen, will not be jailed as he waits for his Aug. 4 hearing before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board.
“Granting him this delay without incarcerating him is tantamount to letting him escape,” said Bernie Farber, spokesman for the Canadian Jewish Congress.
Immigration Department spokesman Roger White said the government has no reason to think that Kalejs would not show up for his August hearing.
In addition to the charges in Canada, Kalejs, 81, has been accused by the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations of being a key officer in the notorious Arajs Kommando of the Latvian Security Police during World War II.
The Arajs Kommando, an SS auxiliary unit, was responsible for the deaths of 30,000 Latvian Jews.
Kalejs fled to Canada from the United States in 1984 after the U.S. Justice Department initiated deportation proceedings against him.
Meanwhile, the delay in Canada has prompted Australian Jewish leaders to call on their government to “seek alternate means” to deal with Nazi war criminals who also are citizens of Australia.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the roof body of the country’s 100,000 Jews, is upset that Kalejs would be able to enter Australia’s borders legally if deported from Canada and/or the United States.
Australia has “no option but to accept” Kalejs or any other passport holder, regardless of birthplace or reason for deportation, a government official recently said.
Isi Leibler, president of the Australian Jewish council, said Australia, by allowing Kalejs to return, would “once again be perceived to be a country which is not serious in its claims that Australia is anything but a haven for individuals who are deemed not worthy of residence in civilized nations.”
Council officials also said: “If it is the case that Australia’s existing legislation effectively allows a situation where an individual who is judged to have been involved in vile crimes can find refuge here, it is morally imperative for the government to seek alternate means of dealing with such people.”
The council recently made a submission to the minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Nick Bolkus, arguing that Australia’s current laws are inappropriate in dealing with Nazi war criminals whose specific involvement in crimes against humanity comes to light decades after the event.
The council has been assured that Kalejs’ status in Australia will be reviewed.