With disdain I watched a report on Seven News last night about the extradition hearing for Charles Zentai. For those not following this long-standing case, Mr Zentai (now 86) is accused of murdering a Jewish boy in Hungary during the Shoah, and when alleged evidence came to light, Hungary petitioned for an extradition so Mr Zentai could face the Courts in Hungary. Australia has spent several years trying to determine if its justice system is empowered to approve this. The judgement initially supported the extradition, now the High Court has upheld this decision on appeal, and the case is now referred to the Perth Magistrate’s Court.
Seven reported the incident by saying the incident was a “setback for the Zentai family”. That’s nice editorialisation, but the reality is that the whole affair is a setback for the way in which the Australian justice system is percieved to be effective by international observers.
The point of this case is not to determine if Mr Zentai is a war criminal. The point is to show that where there is the basis for a trial, barriers should not be put in place. When Ephriam Zuroff from the Simon Weisenthal Centre visited Perth, he met with members of the Zentai family, and briefed the Jewish community on the information that sits behind this case.
Whilst all our media may be content on playing the sypathy card, effectively sending out the message that this is an old man who should be left in peace, and that bygones should be bygones, they fail to understand the depth of the atrocities of the crimes of the Shoah. If allegations can be substantiated, and there is sufficient evidence to proceed to Court, then Australia should not be putting barriers in the way. Some may think this is a case to display a point of principle only, but it is not. It is about individual justice for alleged war crimes.The passage of time does not absolve a person from being accountable to their actions. It is for the courts to decide if Mr Zentai is innocent or guilty.
This coverage from the Jerusalem Post should be enough to demonstrate just how pathetic the Australian legal system looks in the eyes of those advocating for the trial.
The whole saga raises many points to contemplate. Mr Zentai himself knows whether he is falsely accused, or whether he has something to hide. If he does not have his day in Court in this world, he will carry his own conscience to the grave, either with pride or shame. That is his dilemma, and if the allegations against him have substance he still has the opportunity to atone and seek forgiveness, repairing his bond to humanity without the need for any Court hearing.
Perhaps it is more of a matter for the Australian legal system, and the people that this system protects, to understand that perversion of the cause of justice is demonstrated by this beauracratic nonsense, to the extent that our confidence, respect, and dependence on a system of Justice is being rapidly eroded. This is only one of a number of examples of the weakening of our Courts, which can only lead to social breakdown. Judaism requires seven social standards from every society (the Noachide laws), one of which is the obligation to establish a system of Justice. Australia, sadly, has very little punitive punishment for crime, and a system that can be manipulated at the cost of time and money, which ultimately allows criminals to remain unaccountable for their actions.
We may not need to move to an authoritarian system, but we do need to strengthen both the process and the clarity of our current law to at least give justice a chance. Without this, even where sufficient evidence exists to proceed to a trial, our system of Justice remains worthless, and in the case of Charles Zentai, the laughing stock of the Civil world.