Duty to Disobey -- Reuters 4/5/98

Peace through Reason (prop1@prop1.org)
Fri, 17 Apr 1998 19:00:43 -0400

Here's an interesting thought....

<center>FOCUS-Papon trial puts focus on "duty to disobey" 

Apr 05, 1998 

By Francois Raitberger 


      PARIS, April 5 (Reuters) - A leading writer has asked France to
make it a legal duty to disobey unethical orders following the conviction
of Maurice Papon for his role in the wartime deportation of Jews to Nazi
death camps. 

	"There are circumstances under which resigning is a duty. Let us
enshrine this principle in the law,'' Jewish writer Marek Halter wrote in
an appeal to President Jacques Chirac, published on Sunday in the weekly
Journal du Dimanche. 

	Papon's six-month trial raised the sticky question of whether civil
servants should be held personally responsible for carrying out
iniquitous orders from their government. 

	Papon, the number two official in the southwest Bordeaux region under
the pro-Nazi Vichy regime, was found guilty of ordering the arrest of
Jews for deportation. He was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison
for complicity in crimes against humanity. 

	"It seems urgent to introduce a clause of conscience in the French civil
service so that no Papon, at any level, may in the future...claim to be
innocent under the pretext that he carried out an order,'' Halter said. 

	Lawyer Gerard Boulanger, who launched the proceedings against Papon in
1981, said the trial had been closely watched by thousands of civil

	"Acquittal would have absolved them of any responsibility in obeying
unethical orders,'' he said. 

	The Journal du Dimanche said Papon's conviction must be a lesson to
civil servants and soldiers all over the world ``from Rwanda to
Kosovo...reminding them to resist crazy or criminal orders.'' 

	The verdict would have a bearing on the international tribunal
prosecuting those responsible for massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia, it

	Halter said the issue of disobedience was taking on new urgency in
France with the rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen's far-right, anti-immigrant
National Front. 

       What happened 56 years ago could happen again, on a lesser scale,
in a town or a region controlled by a party the president of the Republic
has called 'xenophobic and racist','' Halter said. 

	The National Front controls four towns in southern France and caused a
split in the right by becoming kingmaker in many hung regional councils
in last month's regional elections. 

	Advocating the expulsion of immigrants and giving preference to native
French people for jobs and social benefits, the Front has instituted in
the town of Vitrolles the payment of an $800 bonus for every child born
to French or European parents. 

	The measure raised the question of whether local civil servants should
obey Vitrolles mayor Catherine Megret and pay the bonus, which the
central government representative has asked a court to annul as
discriminatory and illegal. 

	Papon's lawyer Jean-Marc Varaut argued at the trial that Papon belonged
to ``a generation of men for whom obedience was the supreme honour.'' 

	The 87-year-old defendant said that resigning would have been a cowardly
act, but he might have quit if he had known about the Holocaust. 

	Papon was among thousands of civil servants who kept their jobs after
the Liberation as post-war leader General Charles de Gaulle, eager to
establish rapid control over the country in 1944, picked the cream of the
civil service to build his administration. 

	Historians say many civil servants escaped the 1944 purges by belatedly
helping the Resistance to win anti-Nazi credentials when they saw the
tide was turning. 

	Several went on to brilliant careers in post-war France. The late
president Francois Mitterrand himself worked under Vichy before joining
de Gaulle and the Resistance in London. 

	Papon's own career flourished. He served as Paris police chief and
budget minister until his activities during the Nazi occupation came to
light in 1981. 

	It took 16 years of legal proceedings to bring him to court, and he is
likely to be the last Vichy official to be prosecuted. His superior in
Bordeaux has died, as have most other civil servants of the time. 

	The only other senior Vichy official to be charged with wartime crimes
against humanity, former police chief Rene Bousquet, was shot in 1993 by
a publicity-hungry failed writer before he could stand trial. ^REUTERS@