Anthony Sawoniuk, formerly Andrei Andreeovich Sawoniuk, was born in Domaczewo, Poland (now Damachava, Belarus), in 1921.
In June 1941, the German Army seized the town of Domaczewo. During the occupation, almost 3,000 Jewish inhabitants had their property seized and were forced into a ghetto. Sawoniuk volunteered to join the Nazi-supported Byelorussian Auxiliary Police and in the following three years he rose to the rank of commandant. Because of this role, Sawoniuk was involved in the murdering of Jews: several eyewitnesses testified of his personal involvement in the executions of at least 18 Jews, most of them women.
On 20 September 1942, eve of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Nazis gathered up the inhabitants of the ghetto, led them to the edge of town and executed them. It was one of the largest single-day massacres of the Holocaust. Following the massacre, Sawoniuk was given the task to organise “search and kill” teams to track down those who had escaped the slaughter.
In July 1944, when the Red Army counterattacked, Sawoniuk fled with the retreating Nazis and joined the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. A few months later, in November 1944, he deserted from the SS and changed sides using his Polish birth certificate to join the 10th Hussar Regiment of the Polish II Corps in the British Eighth Army.
Sawoniuk arrived in Britain in 1945 posing as a Polish resistance fighter. He later became a British national. In the early 1950s Sawoniuk became a suspected war criminal by the KGB. In 1995 Scotland Yard, the London’s Metropolitan Police, started an inquiry into Sawoniuk’s case.
Sawoniuk was arrested on 26 September 1997.
On 29 May 1998, magistrate Graham Parkinson at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales (commonly known as Old Bailey) in London committed Sawoniuk for trial.
The trial took place in 1999 on two counts : the first concerning the killing of 15 Jews, the second regarding the execution of three Jews.
On 1 April 1999, Sawoniuk was given two life sentences.
On 10 February 2000, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the conviction, rejecting Sawoniuk’s contention that it was impossible to obtain a fair trial on charges involving events that took place more than fifty years ago.
Sawoniuk died on 6 November 2005 in Norwich Prison of natural causes aged 84.
Sawoniuk was the first and the only person in United Kingdom to be convicted under the War Crimes Act 1991.
After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.
BASIS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.
After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute ).
NUREMBERG TRIAL OF MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS
According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.
Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:
– Crimes against peace;
– War crimes and
– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).
The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure
The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.