FOUR COUNTRIES PLAY HOT POTATO WITH KALEJS
By Blake Lambert
RIGA - While the West watched, the past and present kept colliding in Latvia over an 86-year-old man and what he did or did not do more than 50 years ago.
On Jan. 6, Konrads Kalejs left England for Australia, where he retains citizenship, after being discovered by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization dedicated to tracking those suspected of crimes against humanity during World War II.
Kalejs, an alleged company commander with the Arajs Kommandos during 1941 to 1944, stands accused of killing tens of thousands of Jews in Latvia.
Since late 1984, when the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating him,
Kalejs has bounced between the United States, Canada, Australia and, most
According to theUnited States, he has steadfastly denied the allegations that he
was an officer in the Arajs Kommando or that tens of thousands of Jews, Gypsies
and Communists were being killed in Latvia.
Kalejs in Australia
Yet each time authorities in Britain, Canada or the United States threatened action
or took action against him, Kalejs returned to Australia.
"There is no lack of political will in Australia to prosecute persons alleged to have committed war crimes under the Nazis in World War II,"said the Australian
government in a statement through its embassy in Stockholm. "The case against
Konrads Kalejs was investigated by the Special Investigations Unit ( started in
1987 to investigate alleged World War II war criminals suspected of living in
Australia), until all reasonable lines of inquiry were exhausted. The SIU
determined that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him at that time."
The statement said Australia's SIU completed its investigation into Kalejs in 1993, and that it was a complete inquiry.
It said the Australian federal police and the director of public prosecutions
concluded there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Kalejs after reviewing
material in 1997 from deportation hearings in the United States and Canada.
"The case against Konrads Kalejs nevertheless remains open."
Latvia's will to deal with Kalejs
Under the watchful eyes of international media and Western countries, the Latvian
government reopened its investigation into Kalejs at the beginning of January.
It concluded its last look into Kalejs in 1997, but found no evidence to support the
allegations of war crimes.
The government has said crimes must be investigated independently of the time
when they were committed, such as the crimes during World War II.
It called on any person who can help by providing information to the prosecutor
general to do so. However, that does not suggest Kalejs will soon be standing trial for war crimes in Latvia.
"It depends on the information which can be gained in such an investigation. The
main idea is that there are investigations of crimes that cannot be closed,"said
Ugis Salna, spokesman for Prime Minister Andris Skele.
Salna said if there is new information or evidence, the investigation continues; for
now, it is a pre-trial, or preliminary, investigation, not an official criminal case.
Latvia: We need evidence
In spite of the information gathered by governments in Australia, Britain, Canada
and the United States, the Ministry of Justice said it's not enough.
"None of the mentioned countries has concrete evidence which would allow to start a trial; Latvia has no proof of Kalejs' crimes against humanity,"said Leonard
Pavils, the ministry's press secretary.
Evidence, such as the photograph displayed in this paper and others such as
Britain's The Mail on Sunday, is not enough, said Margers Vestermanis, the
director of the Museum of Jews in Latvia.
"To convict [Kalejs], it has to be proven that he killed civilians. It's not enough that the evidence they have shows him to be a member of the Arajs Kommandos, "said Vestermanis. "Society can convict him for his membership in the Arajs
Kommando, but from a legal point of view, there's not enough evidence."
Vestermanis dismissed Kalejs' denials about the Arajs Kommandos and his
knowledge of Nazi atrocities, citing an article in the magazine "Tevija"on July 4,
1941. He said the article, or advertisement, wanted to recruit people for the Nazi SS to clear the country of harmful residents. "It's obvious to everybody what kind of residents they meant,"said Vestermanis.
Despite the current lack of evidence, Pavils reaffirmed Latvia's commitment to
prosecuting war criminals from World War II, including Konrads Kalejs. "The
position of the Latvian government is as follows: War crimes are not terminated.
Notice that for over 50 years the KGB has not been able to start a criminal case
against Konrads Kalejs,"said Pavils.
"Anyway, the Latvian government is interested in revealing the truth."
The Baltic Times
LATVIA PRESSURED TO
By Blake Lambert
RIGA - Latvia's World War II past, the efforts of its prosecutor general's office to bring war criminals to justice and a recent discovery created an explosive reminder of the country's struggle to deal with its history.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization dedicated to tracking those suspected of crimes against humanity during World War II, found 86-year-old Konrads Kalejs living in England in mid-December.
Kalejs is alleged to have killed tens of thousands of Jews as an officer with Arajs Kommando during the years 1941 to 1944.
In spite of these allegations, no country, including Australia, Canada, the United
States or Latvia, has ever convicted Kalejs of war crimes.
However, the United States deported him in 1993, nearly 10 years after it launched an investigation into Kalejs. Canada deported him in August 1997.
Since the Wiesenthal Center discovered the octogenarian in England, the British
government has considered deporting Kalejs to Australia where he retains
"The Home Secretary is minded to deport Mr. Kalejs, and Mr. Kalejs has seven
days in which to make representation. And that's before the final decision is taken
either way," said Sarah Murrell, the British Embassy's press secretary in Latvia.
Wiesenthal Center, which wants Kalejs to face justice either in Britain or in Latvia, on Dec. 29 condemned the Latvian government for failing to take action.
"Latvia has enjoyed almost a decade of independence, but to date not a single local Nazi collaborator has ever been prosecuted for his crimes in your country, nor has Latvia ever sought the extradition of any of the many escaped Latvian war criminals who fled to the West in World War II," said the organization's press release.
Latvia's prosecutor general's office investigated Kalejs for his connections to war
crimes more than two years ago, but found no evidence to support the allegations
made against him in October 1997.
Nevertheless, court documents obtained from the United States suggested Kalejs
has often evaded authorities there, and in Australia and Canada in the last two
He moved to Australia after Germany's defeat in World War II, but came to the
United States in 1959, claiming to be a farm laborer during the war.
The U.S. Justice Department started investigating Kalejs in 1984, but he fled to
Australia and Canada before he was arrested.
He returned to the U.S., and tried to assume a new identity before he was captured
in April 1985.
"In the more than eight years since his arrest, Kalejs has bitterly disputed the
charges that he was an officer in a pro-Nazi unit that killed tens of thousands of
people, and that he assisted in other persecutions as an army officer, policeman
and concentration camp guard," said the 1993 court document.
Kalejs told U.S. authorities he was a student who joined a police unit of skiers
before developing an ulcer and working part-time on a farm.
The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Kalejs was a member of the Arajs Kommando and he misrepresented himself on his original application to emigrate to the United States.
The Wiesenthal Center's discovery of Kalejs in England, and the subsequent
coverage in the British press sparked Latvia's prosecutor general's office to start
investigating Kalejs on charges of war crimes and genocide.
The prosecutor general's office has asked both the British government and the
Wiesenthal Center for information and evidence substantiating the allegations
"Starting a criminal investigation does not give a reason to turn to the United
Kingdom to ask for Kalejs' extradition," said the prosecutor general's office.
"After an investigation and evidence is found, the prosecutor's office can turn to the court and request a warrant for Kalejs' arrest, draw up charges and ask for the
extradition of Kalejs."
Yet such a finding will hardly be automatic, given the sensitive nature of Latvia's
intertwining pasts of Nazi and Soviet occupations.
Jewish organizations like the Wiesenthal Center have accused the Latvian
government of failing to prosecute people, like Kalejs, who allegedly committed
atrocities during World War II.
Latvians have accused Jews of supporting the Soviet deportations and murders of
Latvians; politicians and officials, on occasion, have denied many people were
complicit with the Nazis.
History, more than 50 years after it happened, once again remained unresolved in
The Baltic Times