Imre Finta (1911–2003) was the first person prosecuted under Canada's war crimes legislation. He was charged in 1987 and acquitted in 1990.
Imre Finta was a commander of the Gendarmerie in Szeged, Hungary, during the Second World War. He immigrated to Canada in 1948 and settled in Toronto in 1953, where he bought a restaurant. He later operated a catering business. Finta became a Canadian citizen in 1956.
He was accused of committing manslaughter, kidnapping, unlawful confinement and robbery in relation to his alleged activities as a police officer assisting the Nazis in the forced deportation of 8,617 Jews from Szeged during the Holocaust.
Finta was defended by lawyers Doug Christie and Barbara Kulaszka and was supported by far-right figures such as Ernst Zündel. His defence was based on the argument that he had only been following orders and was only responsible for transporting Jews. Finta was acquitted after a six-month jury trial. The acquittal was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1992 and the Supreme Court of Canada in 1994. Justice Peter Cory, writing on behalf of the Supreme Court, said "Even where the orders are manifestly unlawful, the defence of obedience to superior orders and the peace-officer defence will be available in those circumstances where the accused had no moral choice as to whether to follow the order." The Supreme Court also ruled that the use of the Criminal Code to prosecute Finta was unconstitutional.
The decision brought to an end prosecutions under Canada's nascent war crimes legislation. Thereafter, the government attempted to deal with alleged war criminals by stripping them of their Canadian citizenship and deporting them to the country in which the alleged crime occurred.
- David Matas (1994). "The Case of Imre Finta, The Viscount Bennett Memorial Lecture". 43 University of New Brunswick Law Journal 281. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
- "Prosecution of War Criminals Moving at 'Snails Pace'". The Jewish Post & News. March 25, 1993. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
- Imre Finta: Not guilty CBC News archives