Copyright © Reuters 1998
April 13, 1998
Croat Said to Favor His Extradition from Argentina
BUENOS AIRES - Croatian concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic has still not received a detention order but wants to be extradited from Argentina for trial in Croatia ``to prove his innocence,'' a Sakic spokeswoman said on Monday.
The 76-year-old Croat, who has lived in Argentina for 50 years, ran Jasenovac concentration camp from December 1942 to October 1944, when Croatia was under the rule of the fascist Ustasha regime, which was a puppet of the Nazis.
The Argentine government sought his arrest last week, and Croatia plans to request his extradition as the result of a local television program that accused him of ordering the murders of thousands of Serbs, Gypsies and Jews at Jasenovac.
The camp was known as the ``Auschwitz of the Balkans,'' and up to 600,000 people were massacred there. Many Croatian Jews were also deported from the camp to Nazi death camps.
The U.S. State Department urged Argentina on Monday to detain him without delay, asking it to ``take all necessary steps to assure that Mr. Sakic is brought to justice.''
But despite a pledge from Justice Minister Raul Granillo Ocampo last week that Argentina would ``show the same attitude'' it did with former Nazi Capt. Erich Priebke, extradited to Italy in 1995, the aged Croat has still not been detained.
``There has been no notification. He is not fugitive. He is at the disposal of the courts -- logically, since he is innocent,'' said a woman at his house in the beach resort of Santa Teresita who would identifying herself only as a spokeswoman.
She said Sakic himself ``has requested his extradition to his native country for trial there in order to prove his innocence,'' adding, ``This is slander against him and all his family.''
Sakic's wife, Esperanza, told Reuters from Santa Teresita last week that he was ``as innocent as a breast-feeding baby.''
But the Argentine official who filed the arrest request last week said he was concerned that Sakic was still free. Victor Ramos, head of the Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, said he had been asked by Interior Minister Carlos Corach ``to try to facilitate the process.''
Ramos said two federal courts were currently investigating Sakic but neither had yet ordered his arrest. ``I'm worried that this genocidal murderer has not been arrested yet. I hope the courts will act in the next few hours.''
Sakic said in a 1995 interview in Croatia that he was proud of his war record: ``I sleep like a baby.'' He told Argentina's Channel 13 last week that when he ran the camp ``no guard or administrator was allowed to so much as touch a prisoner.''
His presence is a setback for Argentine attempts to shake off its image as a haven for Nazis like Adolf Eichmann and Martin Bormann. Postwar leaders Juan and Evita Peron had fascist sympathies, and Sakic said they personally helped him.
Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic hid in Argentina until an attempt on his life in 1957. Argentina's image was further hurt by two unsolved anti-Jewish bombings in 1992 and 1994.