Tribunal on communism announces its verdict

  • 2000-10-05
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - The International Vilnius Public Tribunal investigating the crimes of communism pronounced its verdict on Sept. 27. Organizers of the tribunal called for punishment of communist criminals.

The anti-communist public tribunal was organized by Lithuanian groups of former political prisoners. They were joined by people of similar fate from other countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as human rights activists from the West. The tribunal only had a moral, not legal, jurisdiction.

"Communist parties were criminal organizations," stated Vytautas Zabiela, a well-known Lithuanian lawyer and chief judge of the public tribunal. He announced the tribunal's final verdict in the Lithuanian National Theater.

The theater was full, with only standing room left. Most of the spectators were former political prisoners. Some politicians, including Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, attended the final day of the hearings of the tribunal.

Zabiela read the tribunal's verdict for four hours. It was a public tribunal, not a state court - so spectators could sit in during the verdict.

The tribunal accused communist regimes throughout the world of killing more than 100 million people. Witnesses from 23 countries have spoken about their suffering under communism since the opening of the tribunal in June.

Zita Slicyte, another famous Lithuanian lawyer and prosecutor in this tribunal, stated that the crimes of communists were on a bigger scale than Nazi crimes. Zabiela agreed with her. Communists must get the same punishment as Nazis, stated the tribunal.

Zabiela mentioned figures of the victims of communism in Lithuania: 21,556 members of anti-Soviet resistance movement of 1944-1956 were killed; 250,697 Lithuanian citizens were deported to Siberia and other remote Soviet regions and many of them died there; 444,000 Lithuanian inhabitants were forced to leave for western countries; 25,000 Lithuanians were recruited in the Soviet army and died in the wars, though international law does not allow the calling of citizens of occupied countries to the occupant's army.

There were two defenders of communism in the tribunal - philosophy professor Jurij Radovic and computer specialist Mykolas Okulic-Kazarinas. "Bolshevik bandits who took power in Russia in 1917 are guilty for crimes, but not the communist ideology itself," Radovic said. Okulic-Kazarinas stated:"Only Moscow is responsible for crimes in Europe, but China is a special case."

However, their defense did not make the impression to the tribunal that described the communist ideology itself as "criminal." The tribunal attracted the interest of the BBC and other media, which was one of its main tasks.

Balys Gajauskas spent more than 40 years in a Soviet concentration camp for his Lithuanian patriotic activities. He was present during the verdict's announcement. Gajauskas said that communist crimes "are much bigger than Nazi crimes, but the world does not want to hear anything about communist terror."

Arturas Flikaitis, one of the organizers of the tribunal, said he believes that a Nuremberg - 2, international process with legal consequences to communist killers, will be organized.