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Former Communist offenders behind bars?

October 21st, 2011

Magyar Hírlap welcomes the idea of putting one time communist human rights offenders in the dock. Fidesz is planning to incorporate in Hungarian criminal law an international agreement according to which crimes against humanity are not be subject to a statute of limitations.

The ruling party’s intention was announced last week by MP Gergely Gulyás, who said Hungary had ratified the 1968 U.N. Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, but had failed to put it into Hungarian law. Earlier attempts to put former senior officials on trial for ordering reprisals after the 1956 revolution have been rejected by prosecutors over the past two decades. According to Gulyás, several dozen such files could now be reopened. In another move, the governing parties also plan to deprive former communist officials of their bonus old age pensions, but Magyar Hírlap’s editorial concentrates only on the prospect of putting some of them behind bars.

Deputy editor Gergely Huth feels that several dozen such cases would be too few. If 92 year old Sándor Képíró could be tried (for his role in a 1942 massacre in Vojvodina – See Budapost, July 25), then “what prevents the judiciary from putting commanders who gave to order to open fire on peaceful crowds, or simple militiamen who pulled the trigger, in the dock? Huth also suggests that former Socialist prime minister Gyula Horn, now in a serious geriatric mental condition “could be pulled out of the VIP ward too,” as a militiaman in December 1965. In fact, he argues, the new law would finally declare that Nazi and Communist crimes were equally hideous and intolerable.

That fact has not been recognized so far in practice, Huth suggests, because the regime change took place in 1990 as a result of a compromise between the new parties and the communist regime, and because four years later the most vocal anti-Communist party, the Alliance of Free Democrats suddenly formed a government coalition with the post-Communist Socialist Party.

“Now we cannot afford further compromises,” Magyar Hírlap’s commentator contends. “Several thousand sinners should now pay for their deeds, rather than just a few dozen.”