Emphasis on the record-making function of international criminal justice tends to disquiet U.S. lawyers, particularly those in criminal defense. But no less disquieting is a Paris trial that, though under way now, has roots in events that took place more than 60 years ago, and so suggests that even the Nuremberg-era trials failed to make a sufficient record of atrocity.
On trial is Senator Robert Badinter. As Justice Minister in the 1980s, he pushed France to end the death penalty, curtail the State Security Court, and reinforce habeas corpus. In the 1990s, he led a European panel that resolved legal issues arising out of Yugoslavia's breakup. Last March Badinter, who turns 79 next week, called Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson "faussaire de l'histoire," falsifier of history. Faurisson, who took part in the 2006 Tehran conference that called the Holocaust a myth, sued Badinter for defamation.
Le Monde reports that in a session this month, Badinter testified that when he was a teenager during Nazi occupation, his uncle, 80-year-old grandmother, and father disappeared in police roundups. "We never got news of them again. This, this was my adolescence!" To deny the existence of gas chambers, of genocide, of thugs and assassins, he said, is to say his loved ones died for nothing. Eying the plaintiff, he concluded: "Until the end of my days, as long as I have breath, I will battle against you and your like." Trial resumes April 2.
* This title derives from the 1964 speech in which Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."