Merrick Garland visits Ukraine to discuss Russian war crimes

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said during a surprise trip to Ukraine on Tuesday that a veteran prosecutor known for investigating former Nazis would lead U.S. efforts to track down Russian war criminals.

Garland’s visit, which was part of planned stops in Poland and Paris this week, was aimed at bolstering U.S. and international support to help Ukraine identify, apprehend, and prosecute Russians implicated in war crimes and crimes. other atrocities.

His trip abroad comes at a particularly tense time in his tenure at the Ministry of Justice, the a day of dramatic testimony in Congress about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that prompted many Democrats to renew their call for him to prosecute former President Donald J. Trump and his allies.

Mr. Garland met for an hour with the Attorney General of Ukraine, Iryna Venediktova, in the village of Krakovets, about a mile from the border with Poland, to discuss the technical, forensic and legal support that the United States United could provide, department officials said.

“The United States sends an unequivocal message” to those who committed atrocities, Mr. Garland said: “There is no place to hide.”

“We will explore all available avenues to ensure those responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” he added.

After the meeting, Garland said he was calling on Eli Rosenbaum, the former director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, to create a war crimes accountability team that would work with the Ukraine and international law enforcement groups.

Mr Rosenbaum, 67, is best known for his work for the World Jewish Congress in the 1980s investigating the hidden history of Kurt Waldheima former Secretary General of the United Nations whose army unit was implicated in war crimes against Jews and Yugoslav partisans during World War II.

His work, during a 36-year career in the ministry, and during stints outside government, earned him the nickname “nazi hunter” historians, a nickname he does not like.

In the department’s criminal division, Mr. Rosenbaum was also instrumental in the prosecution and deportation of Nazis living in the United States and Jews who committed atrocities against their own people in concentration camps. In recent years, his portfolio has taken on a broader remit, as former Nazis die, and now includes a wider range of human rights cases, at home and abroad.

The new team will include Ministry of Justice staff and outside experts. In addition to offering assistance to Ukrainian officials, the department said in a statement that Rosenbaum would investigate “potential war crimes over which the United States has jurisdiction, such as the murder and injury of American journalists covering unprovoked Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

This line of work is, in a sense, part of Mr. Rosenbaum’s family business. His father, Irving, escaped from Dresden in 1938, the year of the Kristallnacht attacks on Germany’s Jewish population, joined the US Army, eventually served in an intelligence unit that interrogated German soldiers – and gathered information at the Dachau concentration camp.

Mr. Rosenbaum was due to retire before Mr. Garland asked him about a week ago to lead the new unit. He accepted immediately, according to a senior Justice Department official familiar with the exchange.

The ministry is also assigning additional staff to expand its work with Ukraine and other partners to counter Russia’s use of illicit financial methods to evade international sanctions – detailing a Justice Ministry expert to advise the Ukraine on the fight against kleptocracy, corruption and money laundering, officials said.

“We will explore all available avenues to ensure those responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” added Mr. Garland, whose own family immigrated to the United States after fleeing anti-Semitic pogroms in Eastern Europe in early 1900s.

After a stopover in Poland, Garland flew to Paris, where he was to join Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a series of bilateral meetings with his European counterparts to discuss counterterrorism efforts and implement a strategy of maintaining Russia. responsible for his brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Garland and Mrs. Venediktova last meeting in May in Washington.

In April, Mr. Garland and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said they would work with investigators and prosecutors in Ukraine, a signal that the Biden administration intended to follow through on his public condemnation. atrocities committed by Russian forces that were documented during the war.

Her team also worked with the State Department to provide logistical support and advice to Ms. Venediktova and leaders of other departments in Ukraine.

“We have seen and determined that a number of war crimes have been committed by Russian forces,” said Beth Van Schaack, the State Department’s Goodwill Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice. during a briefing in Washington last week.

“What we see is not the result of a rogue unit,” she added, “but rather a pattern and practice in all areas in which Russian forces are engaged.”

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