12th September 2001

War crimes accused Anton Gecas dies in Edinburgh

Anton Gecas, born Antanas Gecevicius, had been a commander in the Lithuanian army when the Second World War began. When Germany invaded his homeland, ending an existing Russian occupation, he joined the German army and, according to many accounts, took part in the liquidation of ghettos in both Lithuania and Belarus.

Wartime action

The Independent of 17 July 1992 reported that “Gecas joined a Lithuanian police battalion as a lieutenant in charge of a platoon. The 12th battalion was used by the Germans to kill thousands of Lithuanian Jews – taken from ghettos in cities and from small towns and villages to be shot. By autumn 1941, when there were few Jews left in Lithuania, the battalion and others were taken by the Germans to do a similar job in German-occupied Byelorussia (now Belarus).”

He was dispatched to Italy in the second half of the war but, when American forces took Italy and Italy switched its allegiance and declared war on Germany, Gecas did likewise. In 1946, with the conflict over, he moved to Scotland, and worked initially as an engineer in coal mining before opening a guest house in Edinburgh.

Legal proceedings

Although he changed his allegiance late on, Gecas couldn’t shrug off his previous activities. In 1987, Scottish Television reported that he had taken part in killing civilians in Lithuania during that country’s Nazi occupation. Gecas attempted to sue Scottish Television, but lost, with the judge, Lord Milligan, saying in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, that he was satisfied Gecas had committed war crimes.

“ Lord Milligan found the account of events given by Mr Gecas ’not only incredible but, I regret to have to say, absurd’, reported The Herald on 18 July 1992, which continued that Milligan “was satisfied that Scottish Television had acted in all good faith and had taken reasonable steps to check the truth of the material it used.”

The Guardian, recalling the action on 28 February 2001, noted that “he admitted to being involved in six incidents in which soldiers shot civilians, but claimed he was outside the area of the murders. The trial judge, Lord Milligan, said he was “clearly satisfied” he was a war criminal.”

Extradition request

The Guardian report followed a January 2001 request by the Lithuanian government for Gecas’ extradition. A Scottish court issued a warrant for his arrest six months later, with a 28 July report, again from The Guardian, outlining that “he is accused of involvement in the murder of 32,000 civilians and has been charged with 13 crimes in Lithuania. Mr Gecas maintains his innocence of the charges and has vowed to fight the extradition procedures through the Scottish courts”.

Gecas had suffered a stroke and was in hospital when the warrant for his arrest was issued. He died before he could stand trial.



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