January 15, 1954

KURT MEYER-JOHANN NEITZ STATEMENT WITH RESPECT TO REVIEW OF SENTENCES

LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. Brooke Claxlon (Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, in view of the interest which has been expressed by a number of members from time to time in the Kurt Meyer case, I should like to make a brief statement with respect to his case and that of Johann Neitz, the only two German war criminals convicted by Canadian military courts still serving sentences. Their sentences are being served in a British administration prison at Werl, Germany.

The terms of the agreements between the occupying powers and Germany provided for the review of the sentences of war criminals. In view of the delay in bringing these agreements into effect, some time ago boards were set up in each of the British, United States and French zones to review the sentences of all convicted German war criminals still held in custody in those zones.

The Canadian government appointed Brigadier Sherwood Lett, Q.C., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., E.D., of Vancouver, to represent it as an observer when the cases of Meyer and Neitz were considered by the board set up in the British zone. This board has reviewed the sentences now being served by Kurt Meyer and Johann Neitz and has recommended that in both cases the sentences be commuted to fourteen years.

The recommendation of the board in each case was unanimous and Brigadier Lett has recommended that the government should accept the recommendation of the board.

After the most careful consideration of the circumstances the government has accepted the recommendation of the board.

Both Meyer and Neitz will be eligible for such remission of their sentences as they may have earned or may earn in accordance with the rules in force in the prison where they are confined and which are laid down by the British custodian.

I might add that I understand the reviewing boards' recommendations in each zone have

been accepted in each case by the governments of France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prince Albert):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to direct a question to the Minister of National Defence arising out of the announcement which he made a moment ago of the reduction of sentence imposed upon Kurt Meyer. Is that reduction not most generous compared to some of the other sentences? Did the government agree with it? Will the minister say when under the present rules now in effect Kurt Meyer will be released from custody?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxion:

With regard to the first part of my hon. friend's question, the reduction in sentence is by no means generous in comparison with others. I understand it was made on precisely the same basis as similar sentences have been reduced. Indeed it is a fair thing to say that a great number of men sentenced to life imprisonment for much more serious crimes than this-

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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxlon:

-have been released already.

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?

An hon. Member:

What could be more serious?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxlon:

With regard to the second point, that will depend upon the rules in effect in the prison where he is confined, which prison is administered by the British authorities. He will receive exactly the same treatment for good behaviour or whatever service he has rendered as other prisoners who are there.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Does not the minister know when Kurt Meyer will be out on the basis of the regulations that are in effect there?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxlon:

I cannot tell the hon. member.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Is it not a fact that on the basis of a 14-year sentence he would be available to be released immediately?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxlon:

It should be some time within a matter of months or a year or so. I cannot give the exact information because we are leaving that recommendation to be made later by the British authorities.

Kurt Meyer and Johann Neitz Hon. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, supplementary to

that, I should like to ask the minister what could be more serious than to order the shooting down of young Canadians in cold blood contrary to every rule of war?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

I am sorry, but Kurt Meyer was not convicted of ordering the shooting of Canadian prisoners of war.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

May I ask what he was convicted of, since that certainly was the charge.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

He was found not guilty

of that on the evidence as disclosed to the court. The sentence imposed upon him was imposed in view of his conviction of having what would amount to constructive responsibility for this action. It took place in an area where he was in command. I am speaking from memory, and I should not do so in connection with a matter of this kind, but my recollection is that he was not found guilty of actually ordering the shooting.

I think I should make it plain that some people who have been released were in the gestapo or security police in some of the countries and were found guilty of killing, torturing to death or causing to be tortured to death numbers of citizens of those countries. Still they have been released.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I should like to ask another

question. Is it not correct that Kurt Meyer was found guilty and sentenced to death for his responsibility for the inexcusable shooting of Canadian soldiers under his control?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

That is quite a different

thing from the first statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. That is substantially correct.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

May I point out for future

guidance that sometimes several supplementary questions following a main question are tantamount to having a debate on the matter. I did not want to stop the questions being asked because I realized the interest which hon. members had in the subject matter of the announcement made by the Minister of National Defence. However,

I should like hon. members to refresh their memories as to the rules governing oral questions to be asked before the orders of the day. I should like to quote briefly from a ruling by Mr. Speaker Macdonald to be found on page 428 of the Journals of Tuesday, May 29, 1951, as follows:

I would however emphasize that these oral questions should be asked only in connection with very urgent and important matters of public concern and only if it would not be in the public interest to

place them on the order paper and receive answers in accordance with the method provided for in the standing orders. They should always be brief. No debate is permitted and the reply should be as concise as possible.

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DUMPING

INQUIRY AS TO REGULATIONS UNDER AMENDED ACT

January 15, 1954