Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Krombach Affair

I haven't yet heard Frédéric Mitterrand or Bernard Kouchner or Alain Finkielkraut speaking out in defense of Dr. Dieter Krombach, who was kidnapped in Germany and delivered bound hand and foot to French justice in Mulhouse. A French judge has now ordered him to be incarcerated. Why? Because Dr. Krombach was convicted in absentia in 1995 of the rape and murder of a 14-yr-old French girl, Kalinka Bamberski. It was her father who orchestrated the convicted man's abduction from Germany, where he has lived in freedom all these years, the German courts having refused to act in the case.

So we have here an interesting parallel to the Polanski case. Of course there are clear differences: Polanski did not murder his victim, the victim (or in this case her father) was not willing to let bygones be bygones, no monetary "damages" were paid, and no court outside the convicting country examined the case. Still, one might expect such outspoken civil libertarians as Mitterrand and Kouchner and Finkielkraut to protest the abduction of a free German citizen by a French paternal avenger. Of course the doctor is not an artist. And as M. Finkielkraut remarked a propos of Polanski's victim, who was even younger than Kalinka Bamberski, you can never tell about girls these days. We live in such a corrupt, decadent society (dixit Finkielkraut and the Taliban) that the presumption of innocence no longer applies even to those of tender age. (h/t Steve)

P.S. Polanski is considering a return to the US to face charges. It seems he's thinking that he might have an easier time of it in US courts, since the victim wants the case to go away.

6 comments:

Passerby said...

Very interesting case indeed. I was wondering if the man would actually be arrested and jailed. Of course he was tried properly so there is discussion about the jail sentence.

However the arrest was helped through illegal means: a German citizen abducted in his own country, (apparently) by the victim's father and brought back to France.

It looks like French authorities decided that the abduction shouldn't prevent Krombach from being jailed. However, the father (if proven guilty) will have to face justice as well for abduction charges.

This case could give ideas to other people...

kirkmc said...

What I don't understand is why the German man is going to be re-tried. He was found guilty in absentia, and is, therefore, pretty much in Polanksi's position: he's a fugitive from prison, not from trial.

But the parallels are indeed interesting, with the exception that in this case the guy was kidnapped.

Leo said...

Kirk,
the "Code de procédure pénale" specifies that if the accused is caught after an in absentia sentence, he must be retried.
Strange, but that's the way it is.
There must be a rationale but it escapes me.

Unknown said...

Leo, Very interesting, I didn't know that. I imagine that the reason for retrial is that conviction in absentia is considered defective because the accused was not able to confront his accusers, even if it was by his own choice. Some countries do not recognize people convicted in absentia as fugitives. See, e.g., http://books.google.com/books?id=xdkvI9Gd-jEC&lpg=PA186&ots=P9hvtTKuUi&dq=par%20contumace&pg=PA187#v=onepage&q=par%20contumace&f=false

Cincinna said...

Even such "outspoken civil libertarians as Mitterrand and Kouchner and Finkielkraut" will shut up when the case involves the rape and murder of a 14-yr-old girl.

I guess the murder acts as an aggravating factor. They don't seems to be bothered much about violence against young girls.

The legal age of consent in civilized countries remains.

Leo said...

Art, your reference sheds some light on the scope of this French legal provision. It refers to a British court ruling which analyzed that "condamnation par contumace" is in fact a sentence for contempt of court. This justifies the retrial.