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Panel Urges British Government to Prosecute Nazi War Criminals

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A government panel has recommended changing British law to allow the prosecution here of those who committed war crimes in Eastern Europe during World War II.

The War Crimes Inquiry Report, released Monday, also says there is now sufficient evidence to prosecute three people residing in Britain for such crimes and that at least 75 other cases warrant further investigation.

The report has been sent to Parliament for study. It is expected to debate the report this fall and recommend appropriate action. After the debate, the government will make a final decision on whether to introduce a bill in line with the panel’s recommendations.

“We want to hear the views of Parliament before taking a final view on the principle of legislation,” Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, who released the report, said in a statement to Parliament.

The home secretary’s office set up the panel of inquiry in February 1988, in order to verify allegations that there are war criminals living in Britain and to determine whether they should be prosecuted.

Member of the panel included Sir Thomas Hetherington, the former director of public prosecutions, and William Chalmers, former Crown agent.

EXTRADITION OPTION REJECTED

The recommendation to put war criminals on trial in Britain was made, Hurd said, “after examining and rejecting other courses of action.”

Among the options considered, he said, was extraditing the suspects to stand trial in the Soviet Union. But the panel found the arguments in favor of extradition unconvincing.

The report was met with “cautious optimism” by representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s dean, called on the British Parliament “to act swiftly” to change the law.

In 1986, the Los Angeles-based center presented the British government with a list of 17 suspected Nazi war criminals reported to be living in the United Kingdom. It has provided documentation and witness testimony regarding a number of the suspects.

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