Lack of will to prosecute Nazi war criminals

Wiesenthal Center report slams Lithuania, Hungary and Austria; also faults efforts in Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Sweden and Syria.

Yad Vashem 88 (photo credit: )
Yad Vashem 88
(photo credit: )
The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Monday released the initial findings of its eighth Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, which covers the period from April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2009, and awarded grades ranging from A to F to the efforts and results of more than three dozen countries that were either the site of Nazi crimes or admitted Holocaust perpetrators after World War II. The report highlights a renewed effort by Germany to prosecute Nazi war criminals ordered deported from the United States. The most important of these cases is that of Ivan Demjanjuk, who was recently indicted in Munich for his crimes at the Sobibor death camp. The lack of political will to punish Nazi war criminals continues to be the major obstacle to achieving justice, according to the report. In this regard, Lithuania's decision not to implement a jail sentence for Algimantas Dailide stands out as one of the more outrageous legal decisions during the period under review. The most disappointing result in a specific case during the period under review has been Hungary's failure hereto to bring to justice Dr. Sandor Kepiro, one of the officers who carried out the murder of hundreds of civilians in Novi Sad, Serbia, on January 23, 1942. He was convicted but never punished for the crime and was exposed by the Wiesenthal Center living in Budapest in the summer of 2006. Another disappointment has been Austria's failure to proceed with an examination of former Pozega (Croatia) police chief Milivoj Asner, despite a decision to bring in a foreign expert to do so. The examination, which is to determine whether he will be extradited to Croatia to stand trial, has been "inexplicably delayed for close to a year," the report stated. The report also mentioned the continued and consistent success of the American Office of Special Investigations to take legal action against Holocaust perpetrators and the ongoing failure of most post-Communist governments to bring war criminals to justice. Another positive development has been new initiatives by Serbia and in Spain to seek the extradition of war criminals who have hereto not been prosecuted in their current countries of residence. The author of the report, Wiesenthal Center Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff, said the statistics in the document clearly show that a significant measure of justice can still be achieved against Nazi war criminals. "Since January 2001, 76 convictions against Nazi war criminals have been obtained, at least 48 new indictments have been filed, and hundreds of new investigations have been initiated. Despite the somewhat prevalent assumption that it is too late to bring Nazi murderers to justice, the figures clearly prove otherwise, and it is clear that of such criminals will continue to be brought to trial during the coming years. "While it is generally assumed that it is the age of the suspects that is the biggest obstacle to prosecution, in many cases it is the lack of political will, more than anything else, that has hindered the efforts to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice, along with the mistaken notion that it was impossible at this point to locate, identify and convict these criminals. The success achieved by dedicated prosecution agencies, and especially by the US Office of Special Investigations, should be a catalyst for governments all over the world to make a serious effort to maximize justice while it can still be obtained." Zuroff went on to explain that the Report's purpose was to focus attention on the issue and thereby "encourage all the governments involved to maximize their efforts to ensure that as many as possible of the unprosecuted Holocaust perpetrators will be held accountable for their crimes. In that respect, we seek to highlight both the positive results achieved by countries like the United States and Germany, as well as the abject failures of countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Ukraine, which have continuously failed to bring any Holocaust perpetrators to justice, as well as Sweden, which in principle refuses to investigate, let alone prosecute (due to a statue of limitations), and others who have either chosen to ignore the issue (Syria) or which have consistently failed to deal with it effectively primarily due to a lack of the requisite political will." Report card As part of this year's annual status report, the center graded the efforts and results of various countries. The grades granted are categorized as follows: Category A: Highly successful investigation and prosecution program. Those countries, which have adopted a proactive stance on the issue, have taken all reasonable measures to identify the suspected Nazi war criminals in the country to maximize investigation and prosecution and have achieved notable results during the period under review. Category B: Ongoing investigation and prosecution program which has achieved practical success. Those countries which have taken the necessary measures to enable the proper investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals and have registered at least one conviction and/or filed one indictment during the period under review. Category C: Minimal success that could have been greater, additional steps urgently required. Those countries which have failed to obtain any convictions or indictments during the period under review but have either advanced ongoing cases currently in litigation or have opened new investigations, which have serious potential for prosecution. Category D: Insufficient and/or unsuccessful efforts. Those countries which have ostensibly made at least a minimal effort to investigate Nazi war criminals but which failed to achieve any practical results. In many cases these countries have stopped or reduced their efforts to deal with this issue long before they could have, and could achieve important results if they were to change their policy. Category E: No known suspects. Those countries in which there are no known suspects and no practical steps have been taken to uncover new cases. Category F-1: Failure in principle. Those countries which refuse in principle to investigate, let alone prosecute, suspected Nazi war criminals, because of legal (statute of limitation) or ideological restrictions. Category F-2: Failure in practice. Those countries in which there are no legal obstacles to investigation and prosecution, but whose efforts (or lack thereof) have resulted in complete failure during the period under review, primarily due to the absence of political will to proceed and/or a lack of the requisite resources and/or expertise. Category X: Failure to submit pertinent data. Those countries which did not respond to the questionnaire, but clearly did not take any action whatsoever to investigate suspected Nazi war criminals during the period under review. A: United States. B: Germany, Serbia, Spain. C: Italy, Poland. D: Canada, Denmark, Netherlands. E: Croatia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, New Zealand, Norway. F-1: Australia, Austria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Ukraine. F-2: Sweden, Syria. X: Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Luxemburg, Paraguay, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Uruguay, Venezuela.