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War Crime Sentences (Review)

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 14 March 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under what statutory authority the sentences imposed on war criminals in the British zone in Germany are being reviewed; what principles are being applied; when did the reviews commence; how many and which cases have been reviewed up to now; and with what results.

Powers of clemency in respect of sentences passed by British courts on war criminals imprisoned in the British Zone are vested by Royal Warrant in my right hon. Friend. Whilst these powers have hitherto been delegated to the United Kingdom High Commissioner, this procedure is at present being reconsidered, and my right hon. Friend hopes to make an announcement shortly.With regard to the other points in the question, the exercise of clemency is a continuous function, but there was a first general review of all sentences in 1949. The purpose of this review, which included Austria as well as Germany, was to ensure uniformity of sentences for similar crimes, and out of 564 sentences reviewed, recommendations for reduction of sentences were made in 107 cases.Since that date a considerable number of war criminals have been released on expiry of sentence, and over the last eight months 27 have been released in the British zone on clemency grounds. About 230 remain and these will be the subject of a further general review this year. This review is expected to last several months, and no recommendations on individual cases have yet been made.