"Political will present to work with Wiesenthal Center"

BELGRADE -- Serbia has the political will to cooperate with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which searches for WW2-era war criminals, Efraim Zuroff has told B92.

Efraim Zuroff (Arikb, Wikimedia Commons, file)
Efraim Zuroff (Arikb, Wikimedia Commons, file)

Zuroff, who serves as director of the Center's Jerusalem office, hopes that the government in Belgrade will join "Operation Last Chance" - a campaign encouraging witnesses and surviving victims to come forward with the evidence about war crimes and submit it to the prosecution and the Center.

The fact that the Center recently placed Serbia in the group of countries that do not cooperate fully, i.e., where there have been no investigation into WW2 crimes, is not bad, Zuroff noted.

He then explained that the appraisal meant that from April 2013 until March 2014 there had been no investigations or trials for war crimes. The reason for that is the fact the three accused - WW2-era members of the Croatian Ustasha and Hungarian and German occupying forces, Milivoj Ašner, Sandor Kepiro, and Peter Egner, respectively, all died.

Zuroff added that Serbia can be included among the best ranked countries if it joins Operation Last Chance, and said the Serbian government was expected to support the campaign.

"We at the Center promised that any information that will lead to a court process will be financially rewarded," he said, and added that a mechanism was expected to be established that would help determine the veracity of the received information. If this is done, noted Zuroff, Serbia could easily find itself in categories A or B, with the best countries.

Zuroff also stated that he did not doubt the political will of the authorities in Serbia to help. He praised the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutions for its cooperation in the case of Sandor Kepiro, who was put on trial in Hungary on charges of war crimes, and acquitted.

Member of the Board of the Museum of the Holocaust in Serbia Aleksadar Nećak also commented on the Center's report, to say he thought it was not interpreted in the best manner. Nećak also believes that the authorities will live up to the expectations.

The report gave the United States and Germany highest marks, and stated that Sweden, Norway, Austria, Hungary and the Baltic countries showed no political will, or had no investigations and trials launched for perpetrators of crimes made during the Second World War.