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Poland: Extradition Request for Accused Nazi

(July 18, 2017) In June 2017, special prosecutors from Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance filed an extradition request for a man now living in Minnesota.  The request was sent via the Embassy of Poland in Washington, D.C.  The man in question, Michael Karkoc, was a former commander of a Nazi unit reportedly composed of Ukrainian nationals that killed civilians and burned down villages in Poland during the Second World War.  Karkoc is accused of war crimes, but has denied involvement in those events.  (Autumn Callan, Poland Seeks Extradition of Minnesota Man Accused of Nazi War Crimes, PAPER CHASE (July 5, 2017); Andrew Buncombe, Poland Seeks to Extradite US Man over Nazi Massacre During Second World War, INDEPENDENT (July 5, 2017).)

The charges are based on evidence that Karkoc was present at and supervised the commission of the war crimes.   While records do not indicate he had a direct role in carrying out the atrocities, his supervisory participation is documented in his own memoirs and in statements from others in the SS-led unit involved.  An attempt by Germany to extradite Karkoc in the past failed due to the state of his mental health; he was considered unfit to stand trial and according to his family suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.  (Callan, supra.)

According to a London-based attorney, Ben Keith, the extradition request is governed by the European Union-United States extradition treaty.  He noted that “Poland is not required to produce the evidence of the crime, merely … a summary of the evidence.”  (Buncombe, supra; Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance Between the European Union and the United States of America (signed June 25, 2003, in force from Feb. 1, 2010), 2003 O.J. (L181) 34, available at EU TREATIES OFFICE DATABASE (click on link for full text).) Keith commented that the United States would be expected to extradite Krakoc unless obstacles arise and that the large time gap since the date of the crimes would probably not be an issue, given the grave nature of the offenses, but Krakoc’s health might be.  He added “[t]he question will therefore be whether he is fit to travel to Poland, and more importantly whether he is fit to stand trial. … Does he have sufficient mental capacity to understand the case against him? That will be for the US courts to decide.”  (Buncombe, supra.)

The Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes Against the Polish Nation (IPN) states on its website that it was established on December 18, 1998, by an act of the Polish Parliament.  (About the IPN, IPN website (last visited July 6, 2017); The Act on the Institute of National Remembrance (Dec. 18, 1998, as consolidated June 16, 2016), IPN website.)