This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Guilty When Proven Guilty

"The appellant was entitled to a determination of the extent to which he made a significant and knowing contribution to the crime or criminal purpose of the Ek 10a."
"Only then could a reasonable determination be made as to whether whatever harm he faced was more serious than the harm inflicted on others through his complicity."
Federal Court of Appeal 

"[Oberlander was] contriving to abuse the judicial system to avoid responsibility."
"Oberlander was a member of one of the most savage Nazi killing units. ... That he clearly lied about his wartime past to fraudulently gain entry into this country is not in question -- nor the legal consequences of falsification of immigration documents."
"He is here illegally and he ought to have his Canadian citizenship revoked."
Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
Suspected war criminal Helmut Oberlander in June 2004.
Suspected war criminal Helmut Oberlander in June 2004. Mathew McCarthy / CP photo archive
Ethnically German, resident in Ukraine during World War II, Helmut Oberlander was an integral part of the Nazi Final Solution as an interpreter with Einsatzkommando 10a, the unit involved in a force acknowledged as responsible for the mass murder of over two million people, most of whom were European Jews. The court reached its decision by referring to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that individuals can not be held accountable for crimes committed by a group on the basis of group association or passive acquiescence. 

Now 92 years of age, the man has been using all legal means available in Canada to forestall his deportation, for the past 20 years. He arrived in Canada nine years after the war had ended and soon afterward took out citizenship. By Canadian law that citizenship was negated, nullified, because he had lied on his immigration application, failing to disclose his collusion in genocide as a member of the German military. A membership he claims was forced upon him at age 17, one which he had no option but to adjust to. 

Legal proceedings to strip the man of his citizenship proceeded in 1995 on the very basis of his having lied about his service as an interpreter with a Nazi death squad, but he succeeded in forestalling deportation by the use of the legal privileges available to all citizens of Canada. The Federal Court pronounced itself unimpressed with the level of Oberlander's complicity in war crimes, referring his case back to Ottawa for reconsideration, the third time this has occurred over the years.

In 2000, a federal judge found that Mr. Oberlander's citizenship status was achieved under false representation, that he deliberately concealed his past wartime experiences, which led the federal cabinet to revoke his citizenship in 2001. That decision was set aside on appeal to the Federal Appeal Court in 2004 as the matter was returned to cabinet for re-consideration. Cabinet simply revoked his citizenship status once again in 2007. Clearly, Parliament and the government that sits therein recognized his culpability and just as clearly the Canadian justice system failed to deliver justice.

And in 2009 the Federal Appeal Court overturned that second revocation upholding his claims that he had been forcibly conscripted leading him to carry out his duties under duress with the death squad he was part of. But yet again the cabinet felt in 2012 that the duress defence had not been sufficiently established to exonerate the man from responsibility for war crimes and for the third time revoked his citizenship. Federal Court Justice James Russell saw fit to uphold their decision in 2015, observing that Oberlander had never attempted to be relieved of his duties, nor did he ever express remorse.

Which brings us to the current ruling where, claiming that Justice Russell had failed to take into account a 2013 Supreme Court ruling effectively changing the complicity standard in war crimes, the matter was once again returned to Ottawa. "It is hard to imagine how he could be held accountable now, given his limited and forced role with the unit", insisted his lawyer, dismissing the principle of "guilt by association" that he claims has snared his client. 

This has clear echoes of the 'Nicht Schuldig' response of those Nazi criminals brought before the Nuremburg Trials, when perpetrators of mass annihilation of innocent civilians claimed to be doing their duty as citizens of their country, a military machine which was tasked to perform as their government deemed suitable in its grand scheme labelled the Final Solution. As obedient, loyal servants of the government, they held themselves to have done nothing wrong.
"Entire units came en masse into Canada through Halifax in the 1940s. Canada knew at that time who they were."
"If there are a few cases that can still be brought, just for the sake of doing the right thing, then that should happen."
"None will live long enough to make it to trial, they will hire excellent lawyers. … They’ll delay and throw legal roadblocks in the way until they have died safely in their beds, but it’s the point of doing it."
"It’s a stain on the history of Canada. It is to the Canadian government’s great and eternal shame that more was not done."
U.S.-based Nazi-hunter, researcher, Steve Rambam

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