11.07.2002 MFA

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in relation to the initiative of Dr Efraim Zuroff, Head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem


At the end of his visit to the Baltic States, after visiting Lithuania and Estonia, Dr Efraim Zuroff, Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, has launched a project "Operation: Last Chance" in Riga.

Latvia believes that there is no statute of limitation for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Therefore, anyone who has committed such crimes must be called to account in accordance with the law. Latvia aims at objective investigation into the crimes committed under totalitarian regimes, regardless of the political views of the person having committed the crime. It was already at the time of restoration of independence that the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia adopted a Declaration "On Denouncing and the Inadmissibility of Genocide and Anti-Semitism in Latvia", expressing regret about the involvement of a number of Latvians in these crimes. The Latvian Prosecutor General's Office has announced that the criminal cases of K. Kalejs and K. Ozols, who were charged with war crimes committed during World War II, are not closed. The Latvian Government's efforts in Holocaust education, research and remembrance have been welcomed by several countries, including the USA and Israel.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is of the opinion that Efraim Zuroff as an individual or as head of the Jerusalem Simon Wiesenthal Centre has the right to perform activities in Latvia if they do not contravene Latvian legislation. Latvia holds the view that the general claims that are addressed to it do not help the activities being undertaken by the Latvian law enforcement institutions. Claims such as these do not facilitate uncovering of the truth, as they are too generalised and inconcrete and are not based on specific facts.

The Government of Latvia is doing its best to not only denounce war criminals, but also to educate the public in order to prevent a repeat of such crimes. Special attention is being paid to education on the Holocaust. The activities of the History Commission are focused on investigating and explaining the Nazi and Communist regimes. The highest award of Latvia, the Three-Star Order, has been conferred on the saviours of Jews in Latvia. The Bikernieki memorial has been restored, and the Riga City Council has allocated funding for the reconstruction of the burial-ground for the Nazi victims in Rumbula. At present the responsibility for investigations into crimes committed under the Nazi and Communist regimes have been assigned to Colonel G. Rutkis, Head of the Security Police.________________________________________________________________________