War Crimes

  • 2008-07-30
Dear TBT,

Last Friday there was some news: The Human Rights Tribunal in Strasbourg has satisfied the claim by Vasiliy Kononov against Latvian state and awarded him compensation 30000 Euro in moral damages. The judges voted four to three in their judgment and gave the following legal substantiation: according to Clause 7 of Convention on Human Rights, a person may not be punished for a crime if there is no relevant law at a respective time point.

The substance of the case is as follows: red partisan Vasiliy Kononov in May 1944 as a leader of partisan detachment gave an order to burn alive four persons among them a pregnant woman in her last months. Next morning a body of dead newborn baby was found beside her in the ruins. It was one of actions carried out under command V. Kononov against village people in his native region. Later on in the court he claimed the pregnant woman 3 months earlier had participated in military punitive actions against red partisans. And it must be in her 5th or 6th month of pregnancy!! In the mid of 1990s Latvian state initiated a law suit against Kononov accusing him of war crimes. He was tried and found guilty but now he is released from custody on the grounds of poor health.

When I heard this piece of news I was very angry, even outraged. I had read the case materials of Kononov in French as they were presented to The Human Rights Tribunal in Strasbourg and the case was for me clear as a rain 's no human being would have justified the actions of this man. I would have never imagined this happen and especially that it would be done by The ECHR.

The decision made by High Judges is legally correct and based on one of the basic principles of modern judiciary: Nullum crimen sine lege which translates as 's no law 's no crime. So it sounds completely legally correct ... But waits a minute! So then it comes that until the end of WW II there were no war crimes at all. Anything that was done and committed over the time of largest and bloodiest of all wars in human history was lawful and legal because at that time there were no laws on crimes against humanity. You could kill, violate, torture and even burn living humans as much as you could and wanted to.

Now it dawns upon me that The War Crimes Tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo were outright lacking any internationally legal bases and all the actions taken by Simon Wiesenthal are fully arbitrary and illegal and should be stopped, revised and condemned. Otherwise how it comes with One Law One Justice for All principle?

I am fully certain that in the case there were burned alive some Jews the Court's ruling would be just the opposite. So V. Kononov acted at that time fully legally because during that war it was allowed to do whatever you liked. The entire Holocaust, gas chambers, mass death camps, mass killing actions, burning alive were not prohibited and no one could be made responsible for that. Well, it comes to that, that V. Kononov had his full right to murder and burn alive other people on legal basis but on the contrary his victims had no right to living and even today have no right to be revenged. Not in vain a representative from Russian embassy came to the court proceedings in Latvia with flowers and Kononov was awarded with Russian Order for Merits for Fatherland and later he was granted Russian citizenship.

So Latvian State can't judge anybody for his actions in WW II simply because at that time there was no Latvian state and any retroactive action against crimes against humanity is impossible. So, to my mind the High Judges treated the case of V. Kononov as a common misdemeanor law suit and I find it impermissible and unpardonable.

Truly yours,
Gundars Sondors


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