Costa Rica Won’t Act Unilaterally Against Accused Nazi War Criminal

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Fernando Naranjo has said his government does not intend to take unilateral action to expel accused Nazi war criminal Bohdan Koziy.

A Ukrainian police official under the Nazis, Koziy immigrated to the United States following World War II and was later prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department for killing Jews in the Ukrainian town of Stanislaw.

He was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1982 and surfaced in Costa Rica in 1984 as the Justice Department was seeking to deport him to the Soviet Union.

In 1983, the German Justice Ministry, reviewing Nazi documents, informed the U.S. Justice Department that Koziy had “without a doubt” murdered a 4-year-old girl as she begged for her life, as well as other members of her family, whose name was Fischer.

Germany did not prosecute Koziy because its statute on limitations for war crimes had elapsed.

The Soviet government requested Koziy’s extradition in 1986, but Costa Rica refused. A year later, he was ordered extradited to the Soviet Union by a Costa Rican court, but the government overruled the court.

In a news conference last week, the foreign minister said that while Costa Rica would not take unilateral action against Koziy, the government would consider an extradition request. Although he did not specify which country might seek his extradition, it would likely be Ukraine.

Koziy lives in a modest-size house in the San Jose suburb of Alajuela, near the local Jewish community center. In recent months, the Costa Rican Jewish community has publicized his presence and sought his expulsion.

Koziy has been defended by the local Catholic archbishop, Roman Arrieta Villalobos, who said he had been given information “by impartial people” that Koziy was innocent of the charges against him.

The archbishop admitted that he “deferred” to a Ukrainian cardinal, Ivan Lubachevsky, who has lived in exile in Rome and has vigorously defended Koziy against “Jews and Communists who have falsely accused him.”

Meanwhile, three members of the U.S. Congress — Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) — have written letters to the Costa Rican ambassador to Washington, Sonia Picado, demanding that Costa Rica take action in the case.

In New York, Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress and a Key proponent of bringing Koziy to justice, reacted angrily to the Costa Rican foreign minister’s statement. “Costa Rica unilaterally accepted him and it is obligated to unilaterally expel him,” Steinberg said.

(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York contributed to this report.)

NEXT STORY