LA PAZ, Bolivia (Aug. 25)
Chancellor Augustin Saavedra has allowed a West German extradition request for the notorious Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, known as “The butcher of Lyons,” to pass to the jurisdiction of the civilian judiciary, thus almost surely guaranteeing a series of legal maneuvers by Barbie’s lawyers which will enable the former gestapo commander to avoid being prosecuted for his war-time activities.
By declining to intervene at a ministerial level, Saavedra has virtually assured the sane fate for Germany’s extradition request as that encountered by a French claim 10 years ago. In 1972, France pressed for the extradition of Barbie, whom it twice condemned to death in absentia for war crimes committed against French Jews and resistance members, through normal Bolivian judicial channels.
In a drawn out series of legal maneuvers instituted by Barbie’s lawyers, France had to first prove that he was the same person as Klaus Altman, the assumed name by which the former Nazi was known and under which he had illegally acquired Bolivian citizenship.
Once this hurdle was cleared the case moved slowly through the lower courts until it finally reached the Bolivian Supreme Court in 1974. The Supreme Court denied the request, due to the lock of an extradition treaty between the two nations. Subsequent French appeals to then acting-President Gen. Hugo Banzer to reverse the ruling were turned down by the military strongman.
BASIS FOR EXTRADITION REQUESTS
Germany has based its request for extradition on a detention order against Barbie’ by a criminal tribunal in the city of Augsburg that claims he was responsible for the death in 1944 of a French citizen named Kemmler.
The French Armed Forces Tribunal, a military war crimes judicial commission set up after World War II to prosecute Nazi war criminals, has determined that Barbie commanded a gestapo unit based in Lyons that murdered 14,000 members of the underground resistance movement and that he sent 10,000 French Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz.
Informed diplomatic sources here who have requested anonymity, maintain that the denial of the French request by the government, was directly linked to Barbie’s close ties with highly placed Bolivian military figures. It is widely known in Bolivia that one of the most feared “advisors” in torture and interrogation technique attached to the Bolivian Ministry of the Interior, the internal security bureau during the 1950’s and 1960’s, was a German immigrant and ex-soldier named Klaus Altman.
Last July, Barbie met with Bolivian President General Guildo Vildo so at the presidential palace for what Barbie was quoted as having described as a meeting to “discuss judicial and administrative matters.”