SYDNEY, Australia (Dec. 13)
Australia’s prosecution of Nazi war criminals living in this country has effectively come to an end.
Last Friday, Michael Rozones, the director of public prosecutions, withdrew charges against accused Nazi war criminal Heinrich Wagner on grounds of poor health.
Wagner, who is accused of murdering more than 100 Jews in Ukraine, suffered a heart attack late last month and doctors have advised that a continuation of the case against him could result in his death.
The decision to terminate the case against Wagner, who had pleaded not guilty, comes seven years after an Australian government investigation determined that it was “more likely than not” that a significant number of Nazi murderers entered Australia at the end of World War II.
None of the four men who have been accused of or stood trial for war crimes here have been convicted. All are residents of the South Australia city of Adelaide.
A representative of the Public Prosecutor’s Office told the Australian media that further legal proceedings under the Australian War Crimes legislation, passed in 1988, are not expected.
The decision to drop the charges against Wagner came as the prosecution investigating team was in Germany collecting evidence against him.
Wagner was on trial for the 1942 murders of 104 Jews and 19 specially targeted children of Jewish fathers in the Ukrainian village of Izrailovka.
The Jewish community here has accepted the course of events, noting that due legal process was followed.
Isi Leibler, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said that “Australia behaved as well as any country could have been expected to behave under the circumstances.
“Investigations were conducted and prosecutions were initiated, despite the time which had elapsed and the complex legal nature of trials arising from the War Crimes Laws.”
A COMPOUNDED TRAGEDY
He said further that such trials “would have been unnecessary if Australia had appropriate immigration procedures in place in the 1940s and 1950s.”
“The tragedy is compounded by the fact trials did not take place decades ago,” Leibler said.
Australian Attorney General Michael Lavarch defended the government for having passed legislation to prosecute accused Nazi war criminals, despite the government’s failure to secure convictions.
He said the evidence that had been uncovered in a 1986 review of the entry of suspected Nazi war criminals into Australia had given the government little alternative other than prosecuting accused Nazis.
Last year, charges against Mikolay Berezowsky were dismissed by an Adelaide magistrate. In June, a 12-person jury found charges against Ivan Polyukhovich unproven after the judge advised the jury that it was nearly impossible to prove charges so many years after the crimes had been committed.
All three had been accused of murder in Nazi-occupied Ukraine.
Funding for the Special Investigations Unit of the federal police ceased last year and is unlikely to be renewed to allow completion of the small number of outstanding cases.
Technically, the Australian Federal Police can investigate allegations under the War Crimes Act, but local observers believe there is virtually no chance this will happen.