14 August 2013, 21:58

Nazi hunt: 'There is no statute of limitation for war crimes' - expert

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A Nazi criminal, Laszlo Csatary, died quietly at the age of 98 in Budapest. On that very day when he died, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre searching for the former Nazi criminals put Mikhail Gorshkov, a decrepit man and an Estonian resident, currently alive, on its black list. Neither Csatary, nor Gorshkov were adequately punished for their anti-human crimes, thanks to the selective approach of the Western court towards historical justice.

Both Laszlo Csatary and Mikhail Gorshkov, as well as many other former Nazis and Nazi collaborators (living and dead), have managed to reach a great age. The majority of them received a hearty welcome in Europe, which,as is known, was seriously damaged during the Second World War that was unleashed by Nazi Germany in 1939.

According to information available, during the war a number of involuntary and voluntary accomplices in the Nazi crimes, in the former Soviet Union alone, nearly reached 1.5 million people, Professor Lev Simkin, says:

"The majority of all those who worked in cooperation with the German invaders were collaborationists and committed many bloody crimes, working as policemen or prison guards. Of course, they did their utmost to be able to go to the West together with the German troops after the war. Some of them were extradited to the former USSR but hundreds of them settled in the West."

Of course, only the court can rule whether they are criminals or not, continues Lev Simkin. In the Soviet era times the Soviet authorities filed their requests to the governments of Western countries for the extradition of war criminals only in exclusive cases, when it came to atrocious crimes or mass killings and massacres. However, even if the Europeans had sufficient proofs confirming that a certain person was involved in such crimes, they usually did not extradite the former collaborationists to the USSR because extradition treaties between the USSR and European countries were non-existent at that time. However, there were other reasons as well, Lev Simkin says:

"Let’s take Britain for example. It has always refused to extradite war criminals to Russia, despite serious proofs to the effect that all these people committed war crimes. It was the Cold War period, and there was an opinion that should these people appear before court in the Soviet Union, there would be no guarantees that it would be a fair trial, from Britain’s point of view."

The governments of other European countries used a similar tactic. However, at the end of the 80s, as a thaw in the East-West relations became evident, both the European public and press came out in support of reconsidering the approaches used by the Western judicial system to war criminals who escaped justice. In 1988 London received nearly 100 materials from Moscow involving war crimes.

At that time a department on a criminal prosecution of the former collaborationists was set up in Scotland Yard – as before the Britons were unwilling to extradite former criminals to Moscow, saying that they should be tried in Britain. After a protracted investigation into the massacre of 2,700 residents of the ghetto in Domachevo in the Brest Region in Belarus in 1942, Britain’s Court sentenced Andrei Savonyuk, one of the hangmen, to two life terms. The verdict came into force in 1999, and six years later he died of old age in a prison in Norwich in England.

However, this was an exception to the rule, Lev Simkin said. The overwhelming majority of all those who committed war crimes on the territory of the former USSR and who later settled in the West went unpunished. The Western judicial system is a very complex structure, the Russian professor says. Simply, people can’t be punished for forced labour under the German rule during World War II. Indisputable proofs are needed for that. And in most cases, all witnesses have already died.

Of course, a careful investigation is a must in every case, lawyer Gennady Shilo says. However, in any case, the criminal cases of Nazis do not have a Statute of Limitation, he stressed in an interview with the VoR:

"It does not matter whether a criminal is an 80-, 90- or 100-year-old person. All of them must appear before court. It is very difficult to prove anything in such cases but it is necessary to find proofs. And should they be found, war criminals must be tried because there is no Statute of Limitation for such crimes."

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