Wednesday, 07 Dec 2022

We will be relentless: top US Nazi hunter turns to Ukraine war crimes

We will be relentless: top US Nazi hunter turns to Ukraine war crimes

We will be relentless: top US Nazi hunter turns to Ukraine war crimes

When Eli Rosenbaum was hunting Nazis hiding in America, the most he could do was deport them, but he says the US is now poised to change its laws so that he will be able to prosecute Russians responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.

Rosenbaum, who spent much of the past 40 years leading the US government's pursuit of Nazis, has been appointed as the head of the justice department's War Crimes Accountability Team, set up in June to help bring war criminals to justice for atrocities in the Ukrainian conflict.

Widespread outrage at Russian mass killings and deportations as well as targeting of civilian infrastructure, has created bipartisan support for the justice for victims of war crimes bill. The legislation will transform US law so that suspected war criminals apprehended in the US, or extradited from elsewhere, can be prosecuted even if neither they nor their victims are Americans. The change would finally bring US law into line with the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

"It means that if a war criminal comes here, we have jurisdiction. It wouldn't be just US victims and perpetrators, but any war criminal who sets foot in the United States," Rosenbaum told the Guardian. "I know firsthand the frustration of having war criminals here and all you can do is revoke their citizenship and deport them unless some country wants to extradite them, which in the Nazi case almost never happened."

Another bill is being drafted that would recognise crimes against humanity and allow them to be prosecuted in US courts, a statute every other Nato country has adopted except Italy. And there are bipartisan discussions under way for legislation that would allow the US to supply evidence to the international criminal court (ICC).

"Congress must strengthen our laws so that perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity will never find sanctuary in the United States," Dick Durbin, the Senate majority whip and chair of the Senate judiciary committee, told the Guardian in an emailed statement. "I am determined to ensure that those who commit these heinous crimes are held to account. Our nation led the first prosecutions for such crimes in the Nuremberg trials. It's time for the United States to take the lead once again."

The justice for victims of war crimes bill is co-sponsored by the ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, Senator Chuck Grassley. His office did not respond to a request for comment, but a Democratic aide on the judiciary committee said that bipartisan support was so solid, that there were firm hopes of getting the bill passed before the end of the year, no matter the results of next month's congressional elections.

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