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War Crimes (Yugoslavs)

Volume 437: debated on Monday 5 May 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the definition of war criminal which is to be applied to Yugoslavs in Italy; and to what judicial tribunal will persons so defined be given the right of appeal prior to their being returned to Yugoslavia.

The generally accepted definition of a war criminal as given in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal is a person guilty of a violation of the laws and customs of war. I assume, however, that my hon. Friend is referring to the demand of the Yugoslav Government for the surrender of certain Yugoslavs in Italy, which is being made on the ground of their being not war criminals but traitors and collaborators. His Majesty's Government for their part have agreed to the surrender of such persons, in so far as they are under Allied control, when the Yugoslav Government are able to prefer a proper charge against them similar to that which would be required for extradition from this country; that is to say a definite charge giving details of the offence and of the time and place of commission, etc., supported by evidence and not merely by vague general accusations. Since moreover Italy is an area of joint Anglo-United States Command each decision to surrender an alleged traitor or collaborator requires the agreement of both His Majesty's Government and the United States Government. There is no appeal against such a decision but both His Majesty's Government and the United States Government examine the evidence against the accused most carefully before making a decision. In the case of Yugoslav demands for the surrender of Yugoslavs in Italy not under Allied control, His Majesty's Government trust that the Italian Government will apply the same criteria.