Friday, March 11, 2005

"Over 1,000 war criminals in Sweden"

It has been rumored that ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein wants to serve his prison sentence in a "soft" Scandinavian nation like Sweden. His cousins have already sought asylum there. From The Local:

Sweden's only police officer working on war crimes cases has said that there are ten times more war criminals in the country than the authorities admit. According to the Swedish Migration Board there are between 50 and 100 "relatively certain" cases in Sweden, from countries such as Iran, the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. But Hans Ölvebro, the National Criminal Investigation Department's war crimes officer told news agency TT that that is wildly underestimating the reality.

"Why should it be any different here than, say, the Netherlands, a similar country which takes in many refugees? There they have calculated that they have 1,500 war criminals among their refugees," he said. Ölvebro's comments appear to be supported by evidence from Swedish Radio's Ekot programme, which has carried out an investigation into the Swedish Migration Board's practice.

The board's regulations state that refugees who are suspected of war crimes or other serious crimes in their home country should be reported to the police. But Ekot found that in the vast majority of cases these rules are ignored. At Ekot's request, the Migration Board went through 42 of the 53 current cases in which the asylum seeker has been classified as a war criminal. Only one case had been reported to the police.

Among those people who had not been reported to the police are former members of the Afghan secret service, Khad. The Dutch foreign office says that Khad was responsible for the deaths of "around 50,000 people, many of whom were tortured to death". Several ministers from Khad are now living in Sweden. Justice Minister Thomas Bodström told TT that he did not think Sweden had become a haven for war criminals. "But on the other hand it's obvious that people could come to Sweden, like other countries, to try to avoid responsibility," he said.

War criminals retire to Scandinavia

Progress Party leader Carl I. Hagen demanded a government explanation after newspaper VG reported that Norway is part of a witness protection scheme that includes giving war criminals a new life and identity. "If Norway is taking part in such a program and keeping it secret, this is very dramatic," Hagen told VG, and pressed for a full explanation from the Norwegian government.

Several United Nations sources confirmed to VG that Norway has spent NOK 42 million (USD 6.8 million) since 1999 as part of a witness protection scheme designed to prosecute war crimes. According to VG several key war criminals choose to testify against their former comrades in return for serving their sentence in a Scandinavian prison.

Norwegian authorities weigh an eventual residency after served time, and humanitarian concerns can prevent such a person being returned to their country of origin. "It is a paradox that one can end up in Norway with a new name, new home and new job after slaughtering thousands of people. Then it is nearly rewarding to be a war criminal," lawyer Michael Carnavas at the UN tribunal in the Hague told VG. VG recently reported that convicted war criminal Dragen Obrenovic was serving his sentence alongside petty criminals in a Norwegian prison.

War criminal would not find refuge today

The case of a Serbian convicted of war crimes in Croatia being granted work and residency permission in Norway continued to make waves on Wednesday. Politicians demanded an explanation from the Justice Department on immigration routines, while officials insisted that such a case could not arise under current procedures.


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