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article imageHungary charges former Communist minister with war crimes

By Christopher Szabo     Oct 16, 2013 in World
Budapest - In a historic move, the Budapest Branch of the Hungarian National Prosecutor’s Office has charged a former high Communist official with responsibility for war crimes leading to multiple deaths, as well as other, less serious offences.
Béla Biszku was one of the men responsible for the reprisals against pro-democracy activists who rose in revolt against the Soviet-backed Hungarian Communist regime on October 23, 1956.
Biszku’s involvement came after the second Soviet invasion on November 4, 1956, in which the USSR sent 31,500 additional soldiers (in addition to five divisions already in Hungary) and 1,130 tanks. At this time, the USSR possessed some of the best tanks in the world (T-54 type) and the invasion was supported by air power as well, in Operation Whirlwind.
A group of T-54 tanks. The USSR exported mainly T-54 and the upgraded T-55 to its Third World client...
A group of T-54 tanks. The USSR exported mainly T-54 and the upgraded T-55 to its Third World clients.
Wikimedia Commons
After Hungarian resistance ended, the Soviets set up a puppet government under János Kádár,which had Béla Biszku as its Interior Minister. Some sporadic resistance and demonstrations continued, despite the total Soviet grip on power in the small country. One reason for this was some Hungarians still hoped to receive assistance from the US or Western democracies, but this was not forthcoming.
Fighting At The Korvin Theatre 1956
This photo of the Hole in the Flag became an icon of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The reason the centre was torn out was the rejection by the revolutionaries of the Communist coat-of-arms there.
American Hungariand Federation via Author
In all, about 3,000 Hungarians were killed, 200,00 fled (including my parents) and the country suffered damage similar to that in WWII. 26,000 people were arrested in the first wave of reprisals and hundreds executed.
In crushing these marches and demonstrations, the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (that is, Communist party) organised a Temporary Executive Committee which created an armed paramilitary organisation called “pufajkások” (wearing quilted coats) by the people.
This militia was responsible for murdering three peaceful demonstrators in Budapest on December 6, 1956 at the so-called Red Flag Demonstration and on December 8, 1956, in the northern town of Salgótarján, in which 46 people were killed, according to Origo.hu.
Other serious charges relating to torture have been brought, as well as some minor ones, including the illegal possession of ammunition.
Hungary 1956: A destroyed monster  the  Iosip Stalin  IS-3  a mighty tank that influenced Western ta...
Hungary 1956: A destroyed monster, the "Iosip Stalin" IS-3, a mighty tank that influenced Western tank design.
Hungarian American Federation
The charges were possible as a result of a 2011 law brought by the present governemnt of Viktor Orbán, which considers war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those committed under Communism, not to come under any statute of limitations. (Most countries, as well as international agreements, say the same thing.) If found guilty, Biszku (92) could face life in prison, according to Reuters.
The new law allows the Geneva Conventions, which Hungary had always been party to, except between 1945 and 1949, to apply to all citizens, including former members of the Communist party. The relevant Convention would be the Fourth Geneva Convention, „Relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war”, of 1949.
Soviet T-34 Tank Destroyed During The Fighting
This photograph was taken by Captain István Kovács, who later died in the fighting
Captain István Kovács
The fact that it has taken more than 20 years for serious charges to be brought against former top officials of the Communist party shows the divisions in Hungarian society, where many, including the former president, László Sólyom, preferred to block all possible legal recourse for the victims rather than face the past as president of the Constitutional Court in 1990 and 1991.
This writer spoke to him at the time on a visit to South Africa and his views were not consistent, in my opinion, with the Rule of Law as understood in either Roman Dutch or Anglo-Saxon Law.
It appears, however, that his views changed when he became President of the (Hungarian) Republic. He refused to give former Prime Minister Gyula Horn Hungary’s highest award, which was requested for him by then Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. (Incidentally, Horn had been a member of the sadistic Communist militia and never regretted it.) He died recently without ever having to face a court for war crimes.
The example of Sólyom is just one of many who initially tried to avoid the light being shone on Communist crimes but who apparently changed his mind later. Of course, in the intervening time, many of the top criminals lived comfortable lives in the best suburbs, while their victims survived on minimal pensions and never received any recognition for their heroism in the fight against Communism.
So the charging of a senior figure constitutes some form of justice for many victims of Communism. Of course, most of them have died and only their descendants can hope to see a killer finally brought to justice.
More about Hungary, War, Crime, Communism, Communist
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