Swedish police to launch new war crimes unit

Sweden has pledged to step up the fight against suspected war criminals hiding in the country, with the head of the Swedish Police Service, Stefan Strömberg, deciding to set up a special war crimes unit.

The proposed new group is to consist of ten police investigators and will fall under the remit of the National Criminal Investigation Department.

“We were given the go-ahead today and hope to begin recruiting quite soon. It’s possible we’ll be up and running early next year,” spokesman Anders Wretling told The Local.

Until now war crimes investigations have been carried out by three designated officers in the Stockholm, Skåne and Västra Götaland regions.

“Police will get better at investigating war crimes. Sweden is not going to become a haven for war criminals,” Stefan Strömberg told TT.

For the remainder of 2007, police are planning to pump three million kronor from the special operations reserve into the hunt for war criminals.

In 2008 and 2009 the war crimes unit is to receive a total of 18 million kronor ($2.6m).

Police say they will recruit experienced officers with backgrounds in intelligence gathering and foreign operations.

“I am aware of how difficult this is to investigate and maybe one shouldn’t have too high hopes of seeing fast results,” said Strömberg.

There are currently 30 to 40 investigations underway into war crimes, but the investigations rarely led to prosecutions.

“Most of the investigations currently underway relate to people from the former Yugoslavia,” said Wretling.

Around 1,000 suspected war criminals are estimated to live in Sweden, with more expected to arrive together with current waves of immigrants, Svenska Dagbladet reported earlier this year.

Sweden previously received large groups of refugees from the former Yugoslavia. In recent times it has also become home to people fleeing war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.