Toronto Sun | Mar. 27, 2002 | Howard Margolian

War Crimes Prosecutions

AS a former member of Canada's war crimes prosecution unit and the author of two books on the subject of Nazi war criminals, I support the federal government's policy of revoking the citizenship of suspected war criminals. Yet that policy has been abused on occasion. The ongoing proceedings against 91-year-old Alzheimer's patient Jacob Fast are a case in point. The Canadian public has had good reason to be skeptical of war crimes prosecutions. All too often they have been conducted against a backdrop of lobby-group interference and identity politics. This cannot help but have prejudiced the right of various accused to a fair trial. Indeed, it is only by the grace of God that Canadian jurisprudence has thus far avoided a fiasco along the lines of the Demjanjuk case in the U.S.

No useful purpose is served in trying some old man - whatever his alleged crimes - who is either too ill or too frail to assist his lawyers. It was wrong for the Crown not to drop its case against a diabetic and cancer-ridden Radislav Grujicic in 1992-93, and it is wrong for it to persist in its case against an increasingly senile Jacob Fast.

Justice is not just if pursued at all costs. No matter how noble their intentions, the Crown's representatives should know better than to drag our courts through a sewer to catch a rat.

Continuing with the proceedings against Fast mocks the suffering of his alleged victims, brings the justice system into disrepute and calls into question the legitimacy of all war crimes prosecutions.

Bring war criminals to justice? Absolutely. But not at the expense of human compassion and common decency.

Howard Margolian
(Justice can't be served if the defendant is mentally incompetent)