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Nazi convictions triple in past year--Jewish group

Written by: Staff
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VIENNA, Apr 25 (Reuters) Convictions of Nazi war criminals rose more than threefold in the past year, challenging conventional wisdom that suspects are now too old to prosecute, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said.

But the centre criticised some countries ranging from Austria to Syria for what it called a refusal in principle to investigate, let alone prosecute, suspected war criminals despite evidence they lived within their borders.

In a statement, the Jewish group said convictions rose by 320 per cent in the past year, with dozens of new investigations against Holocaust perpetrators joining hundreds of other cases.

''Despite the somewhat prevalent assumption that it is too late to bring Nazi murderers to justice (60 years after the Holocaust), the figures clearly prove otherwise,'' the centre's Israel director, Ephraim Zuroff, said in the report.

''While it is generally assumed that it is the age of the suspects that is the biggest obstacle to prosecution, in many cases it is the lack of political will, more than anything else, that has hindered efforts,'' he said.

Another major obstacle had been statutes of limitations in countries such as Norway and Sweden.

The report said most fresh investigations and convictions occurred in Italy, Poland, Germany and the United States.

The centre graded countries from A to F on their efforts and results. The United States, Croatia, Australia and several EU countries rated highest, while Austria, Sweden, Norway, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Syria were ranked at the bottom.

Austria was singled out for ''consistent failure'' to prosecute Milivoj Asner, a police chief under Croatia's Nazi-allied Ustashe regime during World War Two whom the centre said has been living in the Austrian city of Klagenfurt.

Austrian justice officials could not be reached for comment.

Responding to Simon Wiesenthal Center complaints last year, justice officials said Asner, in his early 90s, had both Austrian and Croatian citizenship and they did have a legal basis for ''surveillance measures''.

Under Adolf Hitler's ''final solution'' policy, 6 million Jews were killed in Nazi-occupied or -allied areas of Europe.

REUTERS SI KN1100

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