Calgary Herald | Jan. 06, 2004 | Janice Tibbetts

Cotler primed to hunt Nazi war criminals
Calgary Herald, Tuesday, January 06, 2004, page A4

Minister vows to track down war criminals
Edmonton Journal, Tuesday, January 06, 2004, page A3

Janice Tibbetts
CanWest News Service

Justices Minister Irwin Cotler says he wants to "put the world on notice" that one of his main priorities is to push for war criminals to be brought to justice at home and abroad, including suspected Nazi war criminals who are now living quiet lives in Canada.

Cotler, the country's first Jewish justice minister, acknowledged Canada has much to do on the domestic front at a time when the world is cracking down on crimes against humanity.

Cotler said rooting out suspected Nazi war criminals and those "who have somehow gotten into Canada from the contemporary killing fields," is part of his broader plan to play a key role in exporting justice expertise as the world deals with dictators such as former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"I'm going to put the world on notice that this is a priority for us," Cotler said in an interview. "If the 20th century was known as the age of atrocity because of the horrific criminality, it was also the age of impunity, few of the perpetrators were brought to justice. We want to ensure we are going to take a leadership role internationally and domestically in the struggle against impunity."

Cotler's plans appear to put an end to initiatives within the Liberal government two years ago to review its expensive and protracted process against suspected Nazi collaborators, possibly by removing their citizenship but allowing them to stay in the country.

Cotler's comments also come at a time when the domestic war crimes unit struggles to deport suspected Nazi collaborators, but has not yet launched a single prosecution against modern-day war criminals from places such as Kosovo and Rwanda.

A report from a 1987 inquiry estimated there were hundreds of suspected Nazi collaborators living in Canada. Seventeen years later, only one - Jacob Luitjens - has been successfully deported and that happened 12 years ago.

While the government has won more cases than it has lost in court proceedings, several suspects died before they were deported [and others are appealing their removal. Two others left the country on their own accord].

The Canadian Jewish Congress called on Cotler to change the system so remaining suspects can be brought to justice faster. "The reality is that the biological clock on this is ticking very, very loudly," said executive vice-president Jack Silverstone. "While we would never expect that the standard of justice would be lower in war crimes cases, you've heard the expression that justice delayed is justice denied."

The Justice Department has launched cases against 21 suspects in the last nine years, including two recent actions against two unidentified men whose names have not yet been made public.

The government abandoned criminal prosecutions of Second World War suspects almost 10 years ago, after losing a Supreme Court case against Imre Finta, convicted in absentia in 1948 in Hungary for "crimes against the people" during a purge of Jews to Nazi Germany's concentration camps.

[Since then, the government has sought to revoke citizenship and deport suspects on grounds they hid their wartime deeds when they arrived in Canada.]

[It is up to the federal cabinet rather than a judge to decide whether someone should be stripped of citizenship after a Federal Court judge determines a suspect lied to get into the country.]

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Note: The material in square brackets appeared in one, but not both, of the newspapers.