UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (Mar. 28)
By an overwhelming vote, the United Nations Commission of Human Rights, holding its annual session here, adopted a resolution today calling for a Convention on the banning of statutes of limitations regarding the trial and punishment of war criminals and persons charged with crimes against humanity. The resolution also called upon all states “to take any measures necessary” to prevent the enactment of such statutes of limitations, “to continue their efforts to assure the arrest, extradition and punishment” of such war criminals, and to make available to other governments any documentation available regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The resolution, spearheaded by Israel and solidly backed, among others, by the United States and France, was adopted by the 21-member body by a vote of 19 in favor, with none against. Iraq, a member of the Commission, abstained, while Sweden, also a member, was noted as “absent.” The three Communist members of the Commission–the USSR, Poland and Ukraine–were among those voting in favor.
Another clause in the resolution called upon the Secretary-General of the United Nations to provide to the Commission a thorough study of the arrests, trials and punishment of war criminals and those charged with crimes against humanity. The Commission voted to give the drafting of the Convention highest priority before its next session, scheduled to be held a year from now in Geneva. The plan calls for the Commission’s parent body, the Economic and Social Council, to receive the final Convention draft in 1967, in time for action by the entire United Nations General Assembly in the fall of 1967.
The issue of banning statutes of limitations regarding war crimes came into sharp focus here last spring, when efforts were made by the West German Parliament to allow a previous statute to come into force on May 8, 1965, the 20th anniversary of Hitler’s defeat by the Allies. Through such a cut-off date, major Nazi criminals not yet caught or tried would have escaped trial. The Bonn Parliament, noting the alarm of many Jewish and other organizations around the world, finally compromised, and set a new deadline, permitting trials for major Nazi war criminals until December 31, 1969. The Convention recommended by the Human Rights Commission today will, if enacted before the latter date, make it possible to try war criminals at any time in the future, beyond the end of 1969.