Germany does not have to cover ex-Nazi guard legal fees, court rules | News | DW | 24.01.2019
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Germany does not have to cover ex-Nazi guard legal fees, court rules

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a bid by relatives of an ex-Nazi camp guard to get Germany to pay his legal fees. John Demjanjuk died in 2012 after being convicted of complicity in thousands of murders.

The son and widow of deceased former Nazi concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk lost their appeal for compensation at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday.

The judges in Strasbourg ruled that Germany did not have to reimburse the family for Demjanjuk's legal expenses.

They also rejected the family's argument that German courts had deprived Demjanjuk of a free trial and violated the principle of presumption of innocence.

Read moreDemjanjuk dies — the end of a war criminal

Demjanjuk was 91 when the Munich Regional Court sentenced him to prison in 2011 for aiding and abetting the murder of more than 28,000 people at the Sobibor concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Watch video 00:51

Convicted Nazi criminal John Demjanjuk dead at 91 # 17.03.2012 # Journal # englisch # nicht im Mediacenter

Historic case

The ruling set an important legal precedent that no proof of a specific crime was needed to convict a defendant. Demjanjuk was given five years in prison on the grounds that he was part of the Nazi killing machine, rather than for specific murders linked personally to him.

The judgment was also the first against a non-German concentration camp guard. Born in Ukraine, Demjanjuk was forcibly recruited by the Nazis in 1943. After World War II he lived for decades in the United States until he was extradited to Germany in 2009 to face trial.

Following the verdict, Demjanjuk lodged an appeal at the Federal Constitutional Court, but he died in 2012 before the case could be heard  and it was subsequently dropped.

Demjanjuk's widow, 92, and son, 52, who both live in the US, filed a complaint with the Munich court after his death. They argued that they should be reimbursed by the German judiciary for his legal costs. The court rejected their bid, stating that any claims of a deceased person cannot be taken on by others, even relatives or heirs. That decision was upheld by the ECHR on Thursday. 

Demjanjuk's family has three months to appeal.

nm/rt (AFP, kna)

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