SYDNEY, Australia (Apr. 9)
The demise of the Soviet Union is thwarting efforts to bring suspected Nazi war criminals to justice in Australia, a war crimes investigator has charged.
More than 12 cases against alleged war criminals living in Australia have had to be abandoned because Lithuanian witnesses have refused to cooperate with Australian investigators, according to Graham Blewitt, director of the Special Investigations Unit assigned to gather evidence against Australian residents accused of war crimes.
The unit was investigating a number of cases involving Lithuanian murder squads during the Nazi occupation. Blewitt said they would have led to a dozen trials, in addition to the three cases currently before the courts.
But “numerous witnesses have reversed their decisions to testify since Lithuania seceded from the Soviet Union,” he explained. The result is that only one person is expected to be charged before the unit’s operations are shut down in June.
Changes in the Eastern European countries in general have confronted investigators with difficulties, especially where former Nazis have been rehabilitated as “anti-Communists,” Blewitt said.
He disclosed that he has lodged a formal protest with the director of public prosecutions over the poor translation of evidence in the case of Ukrainian-born Ivan Polyukhovich, a suspected war criminal on trial in Adelaide, South Australia.
He is accused of personally murdering 24 individuals and complicity in the murders of 850 others.
The proceedings have been delayed while witnesses argued with the court translator over the description of a weapon used by Polyukhovich.
In contrast, when a witness was asked in English if he had been forced to wear a yellow star, the translator, repeating the question in Hebrew, asked if he had been wearing a “green sign.”