Copyright © Reuters 1998
April 28, 1998
Argentina Rushes Croat Camp Chief's Extradition
BUENOS AIRES) - Argentina will ensure a speedy extradition to Croatia for Second World War concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic so he can stand trial, a Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the Croatian embassy in Buenos Aires told Reuters she expected his arrest ``in the next few days.''
The Argentine Foreign Ministry said it received Croatia's extradition request on Monday and had already forwarded it to the State Prosecutor ``so that he can be extradited as soon as possible.''
``For the Argentine government, conceding this extradition is a matter of the utmost urgency,'' a Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.
``What I don't know is how long it will take them to find him. That's a matter for the judge and police,'' he said.
Argentina and Croatia are under international pressure to ensure that Sakic, 76, stands trial in his homeland for alleged war crimes committed when he ran the Jasenovac camp under Croatia's Nazi-puppet Ustasha regime.
Sakic, who has lived in Argentina openly for 50 years, disappeared when his past was revealed by an Argentine television program last month. There was no answer when a reporter called his home in the beach resort of Santa Teresita on Tuesday.
A family spokeswoman told Reuters from Santa Teresita two weeks ago that the aged Croat was not on the run and would turn himself into police when an arrest warrant came. She said Sakic was eager to stand trial ``to prove his innocence.''
His wife Esperanza told Reuters earlier this month that her husband was ``as innocent as a breast-feeding baby.''
Sakic said in the Channel 13 interview that alerted the world to his whereabouts that when he ran the camp, treatment was humane: ``When I was there, no guard or administrator was allowed to so much as touch a prisoner.''
He was commander of Jasenovac, which became known as the ``Auschwitz of the Balkans,'' from 1942 to 1944, when he was in his early 20s. The number of Serbs, Gypsies and Jews killed there has long been disputed. The Serbs say 700,000 died and the Simon Wiesenthal Center puts the toll at 600,000. Croatian estimates say it was around 85,000.
Jewish groups and the U.S. State Department have urged Argentina to arrest Sakic without delay. Israel says it ``fully supports'' his extradition to Croatia, while in Belgrade, the government of Yugoslavia says it also wants to try him.
There is no extradition agreement between Argentina and Croatia, but Buenos Aires has made it clear it will ``show the same attitude'' with Sakic as it did with former Nazi Capt. Erich Priebke, who was extradited to Italy in 1995.