War Crimes Inquiries

Jon Silverman asks whether Britain’s sporadic and tardy efforts to pursue Nazi war criminals reflects a lack of skill or a lack of will.

In the last decade of the twentieth century, the names of some 400 suspects were investigated by British police officers under the 1991 War Crimes Act. Detectives travelled to Eastern Europe, Israel, Canada, the United States, South Africa and New Zealand in search of information and witnesses. The result of this unprecedented operation was that two people were prosecuted; one was convicted. If any other police inquiry costing at least £11 million had had such a meagre return, there would surely have been fulminating editorials in the Daily Telegraph and a barrage of questions in Parliament. But not so in this case. The war crimes process has passed from current affairs to history with barely a murmur of protest, let alone serious analysis. It is high time that was put right.

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