Poland is planning to ask the US to extradite a 98-year-old man of Ukrainian origin who allegedly ordered the execution of 44 people in 1944 while commanding a unit collaborating with Nazi Germany, justice officials said Tuesday.
Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which prosecutes crimes from the Nazi and communist eras, has accused Michael Karkoc, a US citizen living in Minnesota, of crimes against humanity, IPN official Jacek Nowakowski told AFP.
The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre called on US justice officials to investigate Karkoc on June 14, 2012, indicating that he was suspected of commanding a Ukrainian unit collaborating with Nazi Germany
responsible for war crimes against civilians.
Karkoc is alleged to have ordered the killing of Polish civilians in the villages of Chlaniow and Wladyslawin, near the eastern Polish city of Lublin, on July 23, 1944.
Although there are no witnesses able to offer testimony, the IPN was able to gather archival documentation proving that Karkoc was the Ukrainian Nazi collaborator responsible for the massacre by comparing his handwriting on documents dating from the war and just after the war.
Nowakowski said that the IPN on Monday requested the Lublin court order Karkoc's arrest as a first step in the extradition process.
Contacted by AFP, the court was unable to say when it would order the warrant.
Once it is issued, the IPN will be able to petition the justice ministry to issue an extradition request to the US via diplomatic channels.
"We understand that, given the suspect's age, the procedure may not be carried out (before his death) but this will not prevent us from pursuing him," Nowakowski said.
Karkoc could receive a life sentence should he be proven guilty of being a war criminal.