September 3, 2007 / 1:59 PM / 11 years ago

Nazi hunters criticize slow German justice system

BERLIN (Reuters) - A prominent Jewish rights group on Monday gave Germany an “inadequate” rating for the first time for sluggish prosecution of suspected Nazi war criminals after previously topping the annual rankings of 26 nations.

“In light of the high number of suspects and the political consensus behind prosecuting Nazi murderers we expect better results from the German justice system,” said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which hunts former Nazis.

In its annual reports the organization gives countries grades for efforts to prosecute Nazi criminals. This is the first time since the centre began issuing its reports six years ago that Germany received an unsatisfactory grade.

The report criticizes the fact that Germany obtained no convictions and filed no indictments, despite 22 investigations being initiated in the last year and 20 ongoing investigations.

“It’s not deliberate, it’s a lack of zeal, a certain tiredness,” Zuroff told Reuters. “Germany doesn’t have enough young enthusiastic prosecutors.”

America was the only country to be awarded the top grade, the work of the U.S. Office of Special Investigations being singled out for particular praise.

Germany’s Justice Ministry and the country’s Central Office for Investigation of the Nazi Past declined to comment on the Wiesenthal Center’s report.

During the last six years Germany has convicted three former Nazi war criminals while the United States has convicted 34.

There are 1,019 investigations of possible Nazi war criminals underway worldwide, the report said.

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