Category Archives: Rule of Law

(In) Famous Cases: The Trial of Sholom Schwartzbard

Sholom

France. 1927. Murder. Genocide. Justice. The Trial of Sholom Schwartzbard. A radical yiddish anarchist is a lonely parisian. Years earlier his entire family had been murdered by Ukrainian nationalists during pogroms, along with thousands of other Ukrainian Jews. In Schwartzbard’s mind, blame rested on the shoulders of the movement’s leader, Simon Petlura. So Schwartzbard killed Petlura on the streets of Paris, using a pistol. Here is Time magazine’s rendering of the trial from 1927.

 
 
Monday, Nov. 07, 1927

FRANCE: Petlura Trial

Court. In the dim court of Assizes, in Paris, during the past fortnight, more  than 400 spectators saw the beginning and the end of one of the most  gruesome, bloodcurdling, impassioned trials ever to be held in that  vaulted hall of justice. Quivering flappers sat to gasp with  astonishment beside white & black bearded Jews who exchanged shocked  glances with flat-faced Slavic Ukrainians under the noses of red &  black-robed judges. Within and without the courtroom was a triple guard  of gendarmes to prevent disorder.

 

Culprit. The accused man, who not only admitted committing the crime but  even boasted of it, was a young Jewish Ukrainian, now a naturalized  Frenchman, Sholem (Samuel) Schwartzbard, a watchmaker by profession.  Short, ugly, he yet commanded the attention of the whole court, for he  told his story, not as do many prisoners, shamefaced and haltingly,  forced to reveal their crimes and motives by harassing lawyers—no,  Watchmaker Schwartzbard openly confessed with gleaming eyes and  hysterical mien, his body trembling with passion, how he slew  “General” Simon Petlura to avenge the deaths of thousands of Jews slain  in pogroms, which he charged “General” Petlura instigated.

 

Victim. Simon Petlura, in the opinion of many, was an adventurer. The  son of a Russian cabman, he is said to have been active in plotting  against the Tsar. In 1918 he entered Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, with  the Austrian and German armies, under whose auspices he took the lead  in trying to separate that province from the rest of Russia. He not  only promoted himself a general but also declared himself ruler of  the Ukraine. He failed and was obliged to flee. Two years later he  reappeared, this time under the Poles, becoming president of a  short-lived Ukrainian republic. He played off the Poles against the  Bolsheviki and the Bolsheviki against the Poles and, eventually, again  fell from power, this time to flee to France, where he lived in Paris  until slain there by M. Schwartzbard. Under his regime, it is  charged, more than 50,000 Jews were killed.

 

Lawyers. Henri Torres, chief counsel for the defense, florid, bloated,  dynamic, put his histrionic abilities to the test when, leaping past  his colleagues into the middle of the courtroom, he brandished a  revolver, produced from under his voluminous black gown. Shrieks of  terror mingled with gasps met this display. Flappers sat with blanched  faces; bewhiskered Hebrews rocked back and forth with supressed  excitement; Ukrainians, more pallid than ever, glanced nervously through  their narrow eyes. Maitre Torres, aiming at a chair, pulled the  trigger—there was a dull click, followed by sighs of relief. He was  attempting to prove that M. Schwartzbard could not have shot Simon  Petlura as he lay , prone on the ground.

 

Cesare Campinchi, flaccid, verbose, excitable, chief prosecution  lawyer representing the Petlura family, particularly Widow Petlura, who  was in court, proved himself the equal of Maitre Torres in oratorical  and theatrical ability. Accused of suppressing evidence by M. Torres,  he roared: “Don’t accuse me of suppressing evidence, Torres!”*  “Don’t  force me to place in evidence your personal pedigree!” yelled Torres.  And thus they continued.

Crime. Simon Petlura was shot at the corner of the Rue Racine, and the  Boulevard St. Michel, on May 25, 1926. As M. Schwartzbard described the  murder to the court:

“Here’s my chance, I thought. ‘Are you Petlura?’ I asked him. He did not  answer, simply lifting his heavy cane. I knew it was he.

“I shot him five times. I shot him like a soldier who knows how to  shoot, and I shot straight so as not to hit any innocent passerby. At  the fifth shot he fell. He didn’t say a word. There were only cries and  convulsions.

 

“When I saw him fall I knew he had received five bullets. Then I emptied  my revolver. The crowd had scattered. A policeman came up quietly and  said: ‘Is that enough?’ I answered: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘Then give me your  revolver.’ I gave him the revolver, saying: ‘I have killed a great  assassin.’

 

“When the policeman told me Petlura was dead I could not hide my Joy. I  leaped forward and threw my arms about his neck.”

“Then you admit premeditation?” asked the judge.

“Yes, yes!” replied M. Schwartzbard, his face lit with fanatical  exultation.

 

Trial. The case opened with M. Schwartzbard telling the court in a high  pitched voice and halting French, his beady eyes gleaming, his face  suffused with joy, how he had tracked Petlura down. With a photograph  of his intended victim in his pocket and a loaded pistol in another, he  was wont to roam the street peering into the faces of passers-by to see  if they were Petlura. All this, he said, he did to avenge the  assassinations of his coreligionists. Finally, he found and killed  him.

 

One Reginald Smith, an Englishman, a reputed eye-witness of the crime,  was called to describe the crime. Quoting Shakespeare, he ended his  testimony by referring to Schwartzbard’s expression as Petlura fell:  “He wore an expression of ‘exaltation mixed with anguish.’ “

 

Many witnesses called by the prosecution declared that Petlura was not  an enemy of the Jews, but Maitre Torres insisted that “Petlura’s  proclamations expressing indignation over the pogroms were mere  blinds. While murdering Jewish men, women & children, he had to  maintain a straight face before the opinion of the world. He also  wanted money from Jewish bankers.”

 

“No,” said a massive Slav, “Petlura was not antiSemitic. He was a  humanitarian—a friend of the Jews.”

 

“No, no, no, he lies!” chorused a dozen people in the court in as many  languages.

 

“They cut them down with naked blades,” screamed M. Schwartzbard.

 

“I accuse that man of being an agent of Moscow. I swear it a thousand  times!” roared another witness for the prosecution, pointing an  accusatory forefinger at M. Schwartzbard.

 

“You—! You—!” yelled Schwartzbard, jumping to his, feet,  incoherent with rage, his shoulders quivering in spasmodic jerks.  Recovering his powder of speech, he continued:

“Do you remember the terrible days of 1910 and 1911 at Kiev? Do you  remember the accusations that Jews were using Christian blood for  Easter ceremonies? You hate me because I am a Jew!”

“No,” screamed the other in a high falsetto, “because you are a  Bolshevik!”

“Prove it! Prove it, then!” flung back the defiant Schwartzbard,  dropping limp, into his seat.

 

A squat Slav, called by the prosecution, who described himself as an  “historian, a man of letters and at present an assistant to a stone-mason,” gave evidence in Petlura’s philo-Semiticism, denying with a  grief-contorted face that the “General” had ever killed Jews or  caused them to be massacred.

 

“Yes! Yes! He massacred them!” shouted Schwartzbard, unnerved.

 

The most notable witness called, however, was Mile. Haia Greenberg,  29, a curly bobbed-haired nurse. In a soft, low voice, she told of the  carnage and rapine ordered by Simon Petlura and of the blood-bathed  home of her grandparents. Murmured she:

“I shall never forget the reddened snowsleds, filled with the hacked  bodies, going to the cemetery to desposit their sad burden, in a common  pit. They brought the wounded to the hospital— armless and legless  men, mutilated babies and young women whose screams became faint as  their wounds overcame them.”

 

Then breaking down and sobbing convulsively she screamed: “Oh, no, no!  I cannot go on! They are before my eyes!”

 

“Petlura was responsible. Even Ukrainian officers said so. His soldiers  killed our people, shouting his name. One regiment had a band and it  played while knives fell on the heads of innocent babies. Petlura could  have stopped it, but he wouldn’t listen to our pleas.”

 

Verdict. Amid tense excitement, after an absence of 35 minutes, the jury  returned a verdict for the young, pale faced Jew’s acquittal. Frenzied  cheering greeted the decision. M. Schwartzbard, calm, kissed his  lawyer, Maitre Henri Torres. “Vive la France!” shouted somebody. “Vive  la France!” echoed some 500 voices.

 

In addition to setting M. Schwartzbard free, the verdict ordered the  Petlura family, represented by Maitre Caesare Campinchi, to pay the  costs of the trial, but awarded damages of one franc each to Mme.  Petlura, widow of the slain “General,” and to M. Petlura, his brother.

 

The outcome of the trial, which gripped all Europe, was regarded by the  Jews as establishing proof of the horrors perpetrated against their  co-religionists in the Ukraine under the dictatorship of Simon Petlura;  radical opinion rejoiced, but the conservatives saw justice flouted and  the decorum of the French courts immeasurably impaired.

 

Schwartzbard, free, went into hiding, fearing assassination at the hands  of anti-Semites.

 

*It is customary in French courts to employ the title  “maitre,” a term of respect.

Episode 34 – Methods of Suppression

Welcome et bienvenue to LegalEase: a monthly Montreal-based and produced radio show on 90.3 FM CKUT – a broadcast about law, cast broadly. Le collectif LegalEase est un groupe d’étudiants et étudiantes en droit de la communauté montréalaise.This month the program is entitled, “Methods of Suppression.”

Methods of Suppression – from popular assembly to personal information to gender identity. What are the tools of the state? LegalEase speaks with Irena Ceric of the Movement Defence Committee, Michael Vaughn of BCCLA, Dean Spade Assistant Professor at Seattle University.

Listen to the Episode Here

RCMP Truth Verification – Fewlings.

LegalEase on 90.3 FM is a radio program broadcast every second Friday of the month at 11am EST from Montreal, Quebec. Originally founded by the McGill Legal Information Clinic in 1989, LegalEase is now run by a collective of progressive of law students from McGill University. Our weekly radio show deals with legal topics of interest to the community, with the intention of making the law both accessible and engaging. Tune into our show, follow us on Twitter @LegalEaseCkut, email legalease[at]ckut.ca or check our podcast library for past programming.

Episode 33: Courage – Legal Decisions and Social Change

Welcome et bienvenue to LegalEase: a monthly Montreal-based and produced radio show on 90.3 FM CKUT – a broadcast about law, cast broadly. Le collectif LegalEase est un groupe d’étudiants et étudiantes en droit de la communauté montréalaise. This month the program is entitled, “Legal Decisions and Social Change.”

Listen to the Episode Here

“Sometimes law precipitates social change, sometimes its the other way around.” This month Garrett Zehr hosts a fine assortment of pieces: discrimination and the law, Insite and its impact across Canada, as well as an opening segment by Stephany Laperriere on law and social movements. What are the contradictions and strengths of legal decisions and social change? LegalEase investigates.

en greve!

LegalEase on 90.3 FM is a radio program broadcast every second Friday of the month at 11am EST from Montreal, Quebec. Originally founded by the McGill Legal Information Clinic in 1989, LegalEase is now run by a collective of progressive of law students from McGill University. Our weekly radio show deals with legal topics of interest to the community, with the intention of making the law both accessible and engaging. Tune into our show, follow us on Twitter @LegalEaseCkut, email legalease[at]ckut.ca or check our podcast library for past programming.

Episode 28 (Dec 2011) – Crackdown

Welcome et bienvenue to LegalEase: a monthly Montreal-based and produced radio show on 90.3 FM CKUT. We broadcast law broadly. Le collectif LegalEase est un groupe d’étudiants et étudiantes en droit de la communauté montréalaise. This month the program is entitled, “Crackdown.”

Listen to the Episode Here

Students Discuss the Nov 10 Crackdown

“Changed, Changed utterly.” Garrett Zehr examines the recent November 10th police crackdown against student protestors at McGill University in Montreal. Students mobilized against tuition increases and unexpectedly met with Riot police violence. Here is a link to the report prepared by Dean of Law Daniel Jutras Inquiry. Here is a link to the Independent Student Inquiry. For a host of articles and information on the Nov 10, see the McGill Daily’s coverage.

Preeti Dhaliwal interviews McGill law student (and former LegalEase contributor) Melanie Benard who shares her first-person narrative of the November 10 crackdown.

Paul Holden and Mark Phillips close the first half of the show by updating our listeners on the MUNACA strike for the last time. The strike is over, but LegalEase presents a case study on how the strike affected student communities. Namely, LegalEase investigates its own nest in the law faculty – observing the McGill Law Student Association’s Referendum and General Assembly processes, canvassing the opinions of students. Est-ce que c’est un ‘crackdown’ sur la proces démocratique?

In the second segment, LegalEase shifts gears: how can we crack down on corporations using the tools of Canadian criminal law? Rana Alrabi presents two guests on the subject of business and human rights, criminal Corporate Responsibility. Elise Groulx and Helen Dragatsi, two members of the Quebec bar, implore us to look closely at the role of Canadian corporations operating abroad. Me Dragatsi discusses her recent book, “Criminal Liability of Canadian Corporations for International Crimes.” La deuxième invitée, Me Groulx, éxplique les nuances de la commerce et la droit de la personne dans la contexte globale. She predicts the development of international criminal law to enable the prosecution of private corporations who perpetuate global conflict through rogue actions.

The two experts discuss the case Association canadienne contre l’impunité (ACCI) c. Anvil Mining Ltd., 2011 QCCS 1966 where the Superior Court accepts jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed by a Canadian corporation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For further discussion on this subject, consult recent article by Yale graduate student, James Yap, “Corporate Civil Liability for War Crimes in Canadian Courts
Lessons from Bil’in (Village Council) v. Green Park International Ltd.” published at Journal for International Criminal Justice (2010) 8 (2): 631-648.

Tune in live every second Friday of every month from 11h00-12h00 on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal or listen on-line at http://www.ckut.ca. For more programming, check us out at http://legaleaseckut.wordpress.com

Episode 27 (Nov 2011) – Remembering and Responsibility

LegalEase – CKUT 90.3 Montreal – Episode 27 (Nov 2011) – Remembering and Responsibility

Bread and Roses

Welcome et bienvenue to LegalEase: a monthly Montreal-based and produced radio show on 90.3 FM CKUT. We broadcast law broadly. Le collectif LegalEase est un group des etudiants et etudiantes en droit de la communaute montrealaise. This month the program is entitled, “Remembering and Responsibility.” Listen to the Episode Here

On this Remembrance Day, LegalEase remembers the past, honours the past, and asks questions on how to build a society with lasting peace. Host Preeti Dhaliwal dedicates this episode to life of Alexandra Dodger, a fellow law student and one-time contributor to LegalEase.

We bring you original and hard-hitting content this month. First, we return to the ever present Munaca Strike with an Update from Katrina Peddle. Stephanie Lapierre and Kieran Gibbs nous offrir un presentation de la mouvement “Occupy” a Montreal: Ground footage of la place des peuples et une entrevue avec prof Eric Pineau. Third, we present you a feature lecture by lawyer Veena Verma on Seasonal Agricultural Workers in Canada. Finally, Garret Zehr does a piece on drone assassinations and the rule of law.

Tune in live every second Friday of every month from 11h00-12h00 on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal or listen on-line at http://www.ckut.ca. For more programming, check us out at http://legaleaseckut.wordpress.com

Episode 26: Crimes

Welcome et bienvenue to LegalEase: a monthly Montreal-based and produced radio show on 90.3 FM CKUT. We broadcast law broadly. Le collectif LegalEase est un group des etudiants et etudiantes en droit de la communaute montrealaise. This month the program is entitled, “Crimes.” Listen to the Episode Here: http://goo.gl/wVnjX

This month’s show features a diverse set of programming on the topic of crime. New contributor Mark Phillips conducts an interview Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and how it relates to prisoners in the justice system. Garrett Zehr presents a piece on efforts to charge Bush administration officials with war crimes. Host Preeti Dhaliwal revisits some older content on Insite, in light of the new Supreme Court decision which recently came down on the subject. She also offers an update on the MUNACA strike. Finally, Jesse Gutman breaks down the jargon on the Conservative’s Omnibus Crime bill, the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

Tune in live every second Friday of every month from 11h00-12h00 on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal or listen on-line at http://www.ckut.ca. For more programming, check us out at http://legaleaseckut.wordpress.com

The Representation in Representative Democracy

Electoral Ridings in Montreal

Some hullaballoo about new seats for Ontario, BC and Alberta. The NDP and Quebec oppose the change and root their opposition in this decision: Reference re Prov. Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), [1991] 2 SCR 158 Read below for a backgrounder.

“The Commons has 308 seats at present. Our Constitution guarantees 75 of those to Quebec. That’s 24.4% of the seats for a province with 23.2% of the national population. (Ontario, by comparison has just 34.4% of the seats despite being home to 38.8% of Canadians.) Even if the federal Tories move ahead with plans to add 30 seats to the Commons – 18 in Ontario, seven in British Columbia and five in Alberta – Quebec will still have 22.2%.

After adding the planned new seats, Quebec would still come as close as any province but B.C. to having the proper number of seats for its population. If more seats are added, Quebec’s representation will be one percentage point below its share of the national population, Alberta’s will be 1.2 percentage points under and Ontario’s will be 2.1 points under. Only B.C., which would then be 0.6 percentage points under-represented, would be more equitably treated than Quebec. (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and all the Atlantic provinces already are over-represented, and would remain so under the new plan.)

But in 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that electoral districts in Canada do not have to honour the one-person, one-vote standard. (Well, actually, the Supreme Court said the oneperson, one-vote rule was sacred in a democracy, but then listed so many allowable exemptions as to make the rule meaningless.)

The majority on the court explained that “relative parity of voting power is a prime condition of effective representation.” The judges then added that “deviations from absolute voter parity, however, may be justified on the grounds of practical impossibility or the provision of more effective representation. Factors such as geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social mosaic.” Other than all those exceptions, though, “dilution of one citizen’s vote, as compared with another’s, should not be countenanced.”” – Thomas Mulcair’s numbers game, Lorne Gunter, National Post

Thunder Bay rule of law in Question: Racism in the Jury Roll

Something Rotten in Thunder Bay

March 2011 decision finding jury rolls in Thunder Bay unrepresentative, i.e., systematically excluding the participation of First Nations people. Pierre v. McRae, 2011 ONCA 187 (CanLII) http://canlii.ca/s/6jsqb

“[The] ruling confirms what we have suspected for years – that First Nations have been systematically excluded from the justice system. Even if an inquest into the death of Reggie Bushie could be convened, two more of our youth have died since 2007 and there is no inquest that is designed to address all seven deaths.” – NAN Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose

Here is a recent press release calling for a commission of inquiry:
http://www.nan.on.ca/article/nan-calls-for-commission-of-inquiry-into-the-deaths-of-seven-nan-youth-in-thunder-bay-730.asp