European court throws out Norwegian "children of war" discrimination suit
2007-07-13 13:30:22 -
STRASBOURG, France (AP) - Europe's human rights court said Friday it had thrown out a discrimination suit filed by a group of Norwegian «war children» born as part of a German plan to create a genetically pure race.
The European Court of Human Rights backed Norwegian courts which argued the group had missed the statutory 20-year time limit for filing their claim.
Up to 12,000 children with a Norwegian mother and a German father were born in Norway during World War II under the scheme known as Lebensborn, or Fountain of Life, first introduced by German SS chief Heinrich Himmler in 1935 to propagate Aryan children. Outside Germany, Norway was the jewel of the Lebensborn program.
A group of 154 Norwegians, along with four Swedish and one German national, have turned to the Strasbourg court demanding financial compensation and recognition of their suffering from the Norwegian government. They argued they were exposed to lifelong discrimination and that the Norwegian government's inaction to protect them against it violated their civil liberties.
They said discrimination included public denouncement by doctors and clergy who claimed they were mentally and genetically defective and potential Nazi sympathizers. The victims also said they faced difficulties obtaining employment and faced harassment at school or work.
Norwegian courts have ruled that the government cannot be held responsible for failing to sufficiently protect the Lebensborn children before 1953, when Norway signed the European Convention on Human Rights.
The group argued that ill treatment continued long afterward, but the Strasbourg court said the Norwegian courts were right when they said they cannot deal with the complaint because it had been filed too late after World War II.
«It has not been suggested that by the time the disputed 20-year time bar expired ... they were unaware of the instances of misplacement, ill-treatment, harassment and discrimination to which they had allegedly been subjected. Their various submissions to the effect that they were prevented from lodging judicial proceedings in time because it was impossible for them to obtain access to official records about them and other relevant evidence are unsubstantiated,» the court said in its inadmissibility decision.
The court added that «a common feature of the individual accounts of the applicants is that they are presented particularly succinctly with scarce details about the time and place of their traumatic experiences and often without specific information about the public institutions in question.
In 2002, the Norwegian parliament ordered the state to make amends for the victims' suffering, and the government subsequently offered to pay the war children up to 200,000 kroner (¤25,600, US$31,000) each, depending on how much suffering the victims could document.
But the group demanded at least ¤50,000 per person _ and up to four times as much for those whose lives they say were destroyed by the years of discrimination.