John DemjanjukAnchor Lisa Mullins speaks with Paul Williams, author of "Indictment at the Hague," about the case of former Nazi death camp guard, John Demjanjuk. Now 89 years old, Demjanjuk is accused of being involved in the death of 29-thousand Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War. He arrived in Germany today to face possible trial.
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LISA MULLINS: If the charges against John Demjanjuk are true, he has committed crimes that are almost beyond comprehension. Demjanjuk is accused of being involved in the death of 29,000 Jews in Nazi occupied Poland during the Second World War. He arrived today in Germany to face a possible trial. He was extradited from the United States after years of legal wrangling. Paul Williams hopes that the possibility of justice for Demjanjuk more than 60 years after his alleged crimes will serve as a warning. Mr. Williams is the author of several books including Peace with Justice. What do you mean that this trial might serve as a warning?
PAUL WILLIAMS: Well, I think it's important that when we're dealing with a case like this, there may be some sympathy for Mr. Demjanjuk because he is 89 years old, but this is more than just a case about him. This is about justice. This is about the role that justice and new types of prosecutions play in deterring future war crimes.
MULLINS: Deterring future war crimes, though, in what way? I mean, there have been many people who have been brought to trial because of their actions during World War II. This man is, as we said, 60 years beyond the crimes that he's accused of committing. Who's going to be warned now who wasn't warned before?
WILLIAMS: I think currently there are a number of individuals who've been indicted by the International Criminal Court or other tribunals. For instance, President Bashir of Sudan, General Mladic from Serbia, and Joseph Kony formerly of Uganda who would like to see this trial put on hold or the indictment quashed because it would give them some hope that they could out wait justice, that justice was simply a political tool.
MULLINS: Well, understanding the argument, that it doesn't matter at what point someone gets prosecuted but justice should be done. On the other hand, I wonder if you have detected any kind of reluctance internationally or even a revulsion personally among people when it comes to putting someone who is clearly at the end of his or her days on trial?
WILLIAMS: When people hear at first that an 89-year-old individual is going to be put on trial, there is some uncomfortableness, some revulsion. But when they understand that the crime is the murder of 29,000 individuals, or in the case of Darfur and the former Yugoslavia, that it's a genocide, I think people understand that the value of prosecuting an individual no matter how old when they have committed crimes against humanity, I think there is a general acceptance of the need to prosecute those individuals despite their advanced age.
MULLINS: By the way, in your view could someone view a trial like this as having considerable meaning in principle but in execution being diminished because of the time that's gone by?
WILLIAMS: Because Demjanjuk will be tried in Germany, he will be afforded the highest degree of due process. It will be a very difficult case for the prosecution to make. And it will also difficult for the defense.
MULLINS: And you see Germany as setting something of a precedent here?
WILLIAMS: Germany is demonstrating that even after 60 years it is still taking responsibility for the prosecution of individuals who committed crimes on its behalf. This is a very important lesson for Serbia, which continues to harbor indicted war criminals and for Sudan, which continues to harbor indicted war criminals.
MULLINS: How much of a warning will this case act as if Mr. Demjanjuk is found innocent?
WILLIAMS: Even if Mr. Demjanjuk is found innocent, it demonstrates that those who are indicted where there's enough of an evidence for an international tribunal or domestic tribunal to issue an arrest warrant, that they still will face their day in court. If individuals believe that they are innocent, now is the time to go to the court because you cannot out wait or out grow a court.
MULLINS: All right, Professor Paul Williams, a professor of Law and International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of books including Peace with Justice. Thanks a lot, Paul.