US taps top Nazi hunter as lead investigator into war crimes in Ukraine

Eli Rosenbaum was involved in over 100 cases to deport or revoke citizenship from Nazis; US attorney general during Ukraine visit: ‘There is no hiding place for war criminals’

Eli Rosenbaum, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, poses next to a World War II map of Germany showing the locations of concentration camps, March 29, 1995, in Washington. (AP Photo)
Eli Rosenbaum, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, poses next to a World War II map of Germany showing the locations of concentration camps, March 29, 1995, in Washington. (AP Photo)

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday the US will launch a team to help the Ukrainian authorities prosecute war crimes committed during the Russian invasion, with the effort to be headed by a renowned Nazi hunter.

Announced during a surprise visit to Ukraine, Garland said the War Crimes Accountability Team will be lead by Eli Rosenbaum, a 36-year veteran of the Justice Department who previously led US efforts to identify and deport Nazi war criminals.

Considered by some to be the Justice Department’s best-known Nazi hunter, Rosenbaum was head of the department’s Office of Special Investigations and was involved in over 100 cases to revoke citizenship from or deport alleged Nazis, according to CNN.

He also served as the department’s director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy.

Garland said that his trip to Ukraine was a show of support and pledged that war criminals would not be able to hide from their actions.

“I’m here to express the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine in the midst of the unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion,” Garland told reporters after meeting Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova at Krakovets on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Members of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, from left, Bill Kenety, Mike MacQueen, and Eli Rosenbaum, gather in Rosenbaum’s Washington office on Sept. 12, 1996, to discuss a case. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

“America — and the world — has seen the many horrific images and read the heart-wrenching accounts of brutality and death that have resulted from Russia’s unjust invasion of Ukraine,” Garland said in a statement.

“There is no hiding place for war criminals. The US Justice Department will pursue every avenue of accountability for those who commit war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” he said.

Venediktova thanked Garland for his support, calling it “very important.”

“We all understand that we have huge enemies,” she said.

Garland is stopping in Ukraine on his way to a US-EU justice and home affairs ministerial meeting this week in Paris.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova meet in Krakovets, at the Ukraine border with Poland, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Nearly four months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kyiv says it has identified thousands of suspected war crimes cases.

Most notorious have been the allegations of wanton murder of scores of civilians in Bucha, just outside the Ukrainian capital.

US President Joe Biden has denounced the killing of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha as “war crimes.”

“Civilians executed in cold blood, bodies dumped into mass graves, the sense of brutality and inhumanity left for all the world to see, unapologetically,” Biden said in April.

“There’s nothing less happening than major war crimes,” he said. “Responsible nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators accountable.”

The US State Department announced the creation of a new unit in May to research, document and publicize alleged war crimes by Russia in Ukraine.

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