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Experts on Latvia’s compensations to Jewish community: Good idea poorly developed

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The Latvian draft law on paying compensations to the Latvian Jewish community for the real estate confiscated by Nazi and Communist occupation powers embodies a good idea, yet the requested sum and articles of law lack clear substantiation, legal experts commented to BNN.

As set forth by the draft law On the Good Will Compensation to the Latvian Jewish Community for Real Estate Illegally Confiscated during Holocaust and Communist Totalitarian Regime submitted by the party alliance Development/For!, for dividing the envisaged funds a public fund would be established.

A representative of the Latvian Finance Minister would work in the council of the fund and the fund would be regularly checked by state institutions.

The planned 40 million euros would be paid out over a period of ten years, resulting in four million euros per year.

The authors of the draft law suggest that the use of the money would also have to be public, the funds would only available for use in the territory of Latvia and for such objectives as culture, education, sport, science, health care, social integration, as well as for providing material help to people outside Latvia, who have suffered in Holocaust in the territory of Latvia.

In case the fund would not comply with the rules of spending, the Finance Minister would then have the right to request for the funds to be repaid to state budget.

Poorly developed proposal

The associate professor of the Law Faculty of the Riga Stradiņš University, Inga Kudeikina, said in an interview with the BNN that it was fine to discuss the issue of restitution to the Jewish community, yet she doubts the quality of the way the proposal has been developed.

Paying compensations to the Jewish community would be possible, but this should take place on a different basis, the legal expert believes.

«First, let’s pay attention to separating politics from law.

Right now, reading this bill, it looks like it’s very political, to put it mildly. It’s quite far from law and the legal framework,» noted Kudeikina.

She also pointed out that the title of the draft law misleads the society – the real estate was not taken away unlawfully. Ownerless property belongs to the state – such was the legal framework at the time and still is.

In the view of Kudeikina, the title of the bill does not correspond neither to the objective, neither to the idea expressed in it.

Additionally, the law expert highlighted that the authors of the bill have only consulted with the Jewish community, although an in-depth analysis, analysis of the experience of other countries and consultations with historians would be necessary. This would be needed to determine if the state can actually assume this responsibility.

Moreover, it has not been found, who were the people, who owned these properties and whether they have heirs, who might have waived their right to the real estate.

It is also yet to be determined, what is happening with the buildings confiscated in the past from Jewish owners and if one group of the society can be singled out in the context of public buildings. Kudeikina also pointed out that the cadastre values, which have been taken as the basis for the calculation of the sum, are fluctuating.

The draft law has not been prepared properly, evaluated the associate professor, as it is not affecting property in the order specified in other normative enactments. The expert warns that a situation is possible, where both a real estate is returned and compensation is paid.

Kudeikina doubts whether without sufficient research compensation can be paid to a community, which does not represent all Jews globally, who had properties in Latvia.

In this case the state undertakes to compensate moral suffering, by compensation is paid to the people. As an analogy, compensations for the damage done by state and municipality can be viewed, but in such cases there always has to be a subject and an object for which the compensation is paid. The bill submitted to Saeima right now would be a «fairly bad precedent», said Kudeikina.

The associate law professor of the Riga Stradiņš University concluded that the draft law is «unsubstantiated, underdeveloped and underresearched» and it «can do more wrong than right ».

According to her, it is possible to pay compensations to the Jewish community, yet in this case the draft law should be developed, studied and very narrow.

International practice

«I’d say that there’s no legal obstacle for lawmakers not to do it. Also, this is the practice of the world.

This state is actually not guilty; however, if this state has indirectly benefited from genocide, then the state should come with a step against it,» expert of constitutional rights Edgars Pastars commented to BNN on the bill of restitution to the Latvian Jewish community.

He noted that it has been established internationally that the classic denationalisation could not have been applied fully to victims of the Holocaust as the heirs were dead. As the state or private individuals have taken over this property, the result is that they have indirectly benefited from the Holocaust.

Pastars emphasises that one may not grow richer at the expense of international crimes, therefore, the acquired benefit should be compensated. As there are no heirs to the real estate, restitution is done to the community as such.

The expert suggests comparing it to the theft of a car. If a car is stolen from an owner and it is later sold to another person, the new owner has to give the vehicle back to its first owner. The issue is not about, whether Latvia is responsible for the genocide against the Jewish community, the issue is about not benefiting from a crime, explained Pastars.

More transparency on EUR 40 million

The expert of constitutional rights explained to BNN that he would like more transparency over how the sum suggested for compensation been determined. It should be found clearly what has been taken away and how to make up for it.

«From the point of view of law, I would say that it’s a matter of a political decision.

There’s no legal problem in proposing this, but it has to be proposed with research and evidence, not only as a gesture. If it’s a gesture, it must have substantial argumentation, why do we use this money this way,» told Pastars.

In addition, he noted that to prevent a similar case with other groups, who have suffered in a genocide, it should be mentioned in the abstract of the draft law that it’s the Jewish community, which has been recognised internationally as a group of victims after systematic violence targeted against it.

«If would be good for lawyers not to mix their emotional opinions and prejudice with legal arguments, but, unfortunately, they often mix these things. For me, it’s unacceptable that antisemitism is turned into legal arguments,» commented Pastars.

Roots

It has to noted that the draft bill by Development/For! has been written in consultation with the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia. One of the board members of this organisation is Dmitrijs Krupņikovs. His brother, businessman Grigorijs Krupņikovs was earlier referred to as the «grey eminence» of the now defunct party New Era. Edgars Jaunups, now part of the party For the Development of Latvia – one of the parties in the Development/For! alliance – began his political career in the New Era.

Latvian media have reported that at the time the proposal by Development/For! emerged, on the player shirts of the Latvian basketball club VEF Rīga, there appeared the logo of Rietumu banka bank. Jaunups manages VEF Rīga, but the chairman of the council of Rietumu banka is Arkādijs Suharenko, who is also on the board of the the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia.


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  1. Justs says:

    For enslaving the Baltic people for 700 years Germany should pay 50 Trillion Euro to the Baltic people as reparations.

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