Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Former DOJ Official Calls for U.S. to Join International Court
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The United States should ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in order to play a leadership role in protecting human rights, a former Department of Justice official has told a conference of Jewish law students.
“I don’t think the risks [of ratification] are non-existent,” Bruce Einhorn said Friday at the opening session of the National Conference of Jewish Law Students at USC. ”I do think that the risks of our non-participation are greater.”
Einhorn, now a senior immigration judge in Los Angeles, is the former chief litigator for the Office of Special Investigations, sometimes referred to as the Nazi-hunting unit of what used to be Immigration and Naturalization Service. OSI is responsible for seeking denaturalization and deportation of war criminals who entered the United States after World War II.
The conference, which began Friday and closed Sunday, brought together Jewish law students from around the country and judges, lawyers, and elected officials who participated in discussions of a diverse range of topics. Einhorn Friday moderated a panel on “60 Years After the Nuremberg Trials: The Continuing Search for Justice & Restitution.”
HIs panel, Einhorn noted, produced less friction than the panel which preceded it with a discussion on “Judaism, Criminal Justice and the Death Penalty: A Philosophical, Historical, and Legal Perspective.
While the death penalty panel included persons with strong and disagreeing views on the subject, Einhorn commented, he and his fellow panelists—David Lash, head of pro bono programs at O’Melveny & Myers; Whittier School of Law professor and author Michael Bazyler, Los Angeles litigator Randol Schoenberg, and Israeli lawyer and University of Virginia LL.M. candidate Guy Carmi—“all begin today with the preconception that facism is a very bad thing.”
Both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Einhorn explained, have opposed ratification of the Rome Statute, saying it could be used to authorize abductions and prosecutions of U.S. forces. The treaty establishes an International Criminal Court with jurisdiction to try those accused of crimes against humanity, if they are citizens of, or commit those crimes in, countries that are members of the court, of which there are more than 100.
Einhorn, who acknowledged in an interview after the panel discussion that his views are not shared by many of his former colleagues at the Justice Department, said that there are procedures in place that minimize the risks cited by the government. While they are not entirely foolproof, he said, ratification is the only way the United States can play a leadership role with respect to preventing the kinds of horrors that have been seen in places like Sudan, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia in recent years.
Both Bazyler, who has represented Holocaust victims in claims for restitution from governments, including that of the United States, and from foreign institutions, and Schoenberg, who has handled a number of claims for restitution of art works confiscated by the Nazis, said Jewish lawyers entering the practice will have many of opportunities to litigate similar issues in the future.
Asked for an illustration of the types of claims that might be viable, Bazyler cited a letter he received from a family in Australia whose factory in a Nazi-occupied country was seized and is now owned by a subsidiary of a large multinational company, Asahi Glass Company.
Bazyler said he believes Asahi can be sued in a U.S. court for expropriation of the factory because products made in that factory are imported into this country by a California corporation. He acknowledged, however, that other lawyers in the field, including Schoenberg, think the theory is dubious.
Holocaust restitution has become a controversial subject, even in Israel, Carmi said. He explained that after World War II, the British government, which controlled what was then Palestine under a mandate from the old League of Nations, confiscated the property of citizens of the vanquished European nations, including Jews.
The property wound up being given to the State of Israel and placed under the control of a large Israeli bank, Carmi explained, which has been resistant to claims that it rightfully belongs to Holocaust survivors, made under a six-year-old Israeli restitution law. There has been much opposition to the law, Carmi said, in part because some see it as potential precedent for claims by Palestinians to property that they or their families owned prior to the creation of Israel.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company