HOME AFFAIRS – PINOCHET & WAR CRIMINALS – 2 March 2000

Dr Julian Lewis: Will the Home Secretary accept that, like him, I believe in the relentless pursuit of people accused of crimes against humanity? Will he also accept that, unlike him and many of his right hon. and hon. Friends, I do not believe in the application of double standards to that pursuit? Does he know that many of my family were killed by the Nazis in the 1940s? Can he explain why the Government, who were so keen to pursue General Pinochet, have consistently stonewalled my attempts to get them to make representations to the Government of Syria over the case of Alois Brunner, Eichmann's right-hand man, whom they are still sheltering?

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why, when Konrad Kalejs, one of the very people who may have murdered the members of my family, was found to be in this country, he was not arrested, but bundled straight out of the country? I know that the researcher who was most qualified to advise the Home Secretary of the nature of Kalejs's crimes was not even contacted before the right hon. Gentleman kicked out this murderer, against whose crimes the crimes of Pinochet against leftists pale, if not into insignificance then into something far less horrible than what millions of victims suffered at the hands of the Nazis, whom the chattering classes evidently care so much less about.

Mr Straw: Of course I understand the hon. Gentleman's very strong feelings when it comes to the holocaust. He knows that I, too, have personal reasons for understanding them. However, I wholly reject the argument about double standards. Indeed, my point to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) was that it was precisely to avoid double standards that I sought to act as consistently as I could with regard to this case and the case of Roisin McAliskey. Double standards would have arisen if I had acted in a completely contradictory way, which I suggest that in no sense have I done.

The hon. Gentleman referred to someone who was suspected of being a fugitive in Syria. It is the first time that the case has been made known to me. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make representations to me, I am happy to see him and follow them up.

The hon. Gentleman's point about Mr Kalejs makes my point about Secretaries of States and courts having to act according to the rule of law, both national and international. The simple fact, as everybody knows, was that no extradition warrant had been received in respect of Kalejs.

Dr Lewis: Arrest him?

Mr Straw: Although I am endowed with some powers, I do not have powers of arrest, except in very marginal circumstances relating to immigration offences when we wish people to leave the country and they refuse to do so. As Kalejs left voluntarily, there was no power whatever to detain the man. That is the truth of it. I had the matter examined with very great care. I do not know which researcher the hon. Gentleman is talking about, but we were in contact with a number of researchers, and I was in contact with representatives of the Jewish community.

Of course I understand the demand that if people are alleged to have committed serious crimes, however long ago that may have been and whatever the country, they should be brought to justice. I see it as part of my responsibility to ensure that that happens, but it has to happen within a framework of the rule of law.