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General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the ex-Communist dictator of Poland who declared martial law to crush Solidarity at the behest of the Soviet Union is on trial for mass murder – specifically, his earlier actions as Defense Minister in 1970 when security troops shot and killed 44 striking workers and injured up to 1000 others.

The old East bloc has a very sketchy record for dealing with ex-Communist human-rights violators. On one extreme the Ceaucescus were shot by a firing squad when their neo-Stalinist regime was toppled by a coup during mass-protests and on the other you have aged despots like Erich Honecker being allowed to flee abroad to escape trial or original Stalinist monsters like Lazar Kaganovich dying peacefully at home. Or GRU chief Peter Ivashutin living to ripe old age in retirement. Jaruzelski was far from the worst of the lot but unlike some of the others he carried out his efforts at repression despite having once been a tortured zek in the hands of Beria’s NKVD ( he had been deported to Siberia as a Polish P.O.W. – Stalin did not honor the Geneva accords so the Poles were treated as counterrevolutionary political criminals and spies). If anything, Jaruzelski had greater moral responsibility to resist repressive policies; the trial is merited.

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