One thing every whole-hearted person has in common is a delight in seeing justice rightly served. Sure, in an ideal world, no one should be happy to learn of a fellow human being’s longterm imprisonment or execution. However (in case you haven’t noticed) the world isn’t a perfectly ideal one. There are people spread throughout all history and geography who, for no evident reason other than pure hatred and bloodlust, have committed or been accessory to gruesome crimes against humanity. And when we see these monsters pay for their actions with their their freedom, we know that the world is that much closer to being an ideal one.
But, sometimes, evil men are able to walk away from their crimes, with neither chain on their limbs nor noose around their necks. This sort of escape from trial doesn’t call for respect in the same way that we respect (and even sensationalize) the stories of clever outlaws, like Jesse James or Billy the Kid. These are war criminals who murdered, raped, and tortured civilians in circumstances that were of no strategic benefit to warfare. To see such soullessness go unpunished, to know that the memories of their victims will remain unavenged, disturbs even the most neighbourly among us.
So, neighbour, you’re invited to grit your teeth as you learn about ten of these men, and the crimes they were never punished for.
10 Joseph Stalin
Despite being one of the men responsible for eradicating Hitler’s evil regime, Joseph Stalin was far, far from being devoid of evil himself. Throughout the course of his savage 30-year rule over the Soviet Union, Stalin is estimated to have been responsible for up to 60 million unnatural deaths.
Just one example of his inhumanity is the sexual assault of two million German women during the final days of World War II, as the Russian army was making its way into Berlin. Far from reprimanding his army for their actions, Stalin hailed them, saying people must “understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman…” Stalin never faced trial for any of his countless crimes. He died in bed, still in power, in 1953.
9 Shinji Uchino
As commander of the Japanese submarine I-8 in World War II, Shinji Uchino ran his vessel with an ominous navy order in mind: “Do not stop at the sinking of enemy ships and cargoes… carry out the complete destruction of the crews.” Under Uchino’s command, the navy men of the I-8 captured the Dutch-registered merchant ship Tjisalak, and took its men aboard as prisoners.
Once captured, the crew of the Tjisalak were shot, stabbed, bludgeoned with sledgehammers and thrown aboard to be churned by the submarine’s propellers. The Japanese soldiers found the spectacle to be of great entertainment; one was so enamoured that he filmed the entire thing. Uchiho ended the war as a senior and was commended by his country as a hero. He was never brought to trial.
8 Ratko Mladić
As chief of the Serbian army during the Bosnian war, Ratko Mladić was responsible for the most gruesome barbarities of a battle that claimed 100,000 lives. He has been accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. He even went as far as taking members of the UN peace-keeping personnel hostage. Mladić has successfully escaped capture for 16 years following his term in the Serbian army, only being taken to trial in June 2011. The trial is still in progress to this day, with no likely verdict in sight for the near future.
7 Shūmei Ōkawa
Shūmei Ōkawa had a gifted mind. He spoke five languages soundly, had earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, and was an acclaimed writer. Described by the Allies as the “Japanese Goebbels”, Ōkawa played a key role in Japan’s Axis involvement in World War II. As the leader of the Japanese propaganda machine, his numerous articles and books were extremely influential in pre-war Japanese culture.
When he was tried as a war criminal, Ōkawa behaved like a lunatic. He sat barefoot, shouted loud random things at inappropriate times, tapped the bald head of the former Japanese prime minister; all while wearing pyjamas. The Tokyo Tribunal surmised that he was mentally ill, and dropped all charges against him. Each of his fellow countrymen on trial were either hanged or imprisoned. Later, in the mental hospital, Ōkawa completed the very first Japanese translation of the Quran. He was released in 1948.
6 Charles Zentai
Charles Zentai served in World War II as warrant officer in the Hungarian Army. He is accused of having murdered 18-year old Péter Balázs, a Jewish man, in November 1944. As the story goes, Balazs was found riding a train without wearing his yellow star, which was a crime punishable by death in Hungary at the time. Zentai allegedly took Balázs to the barracks, beat him brutally to death, and threw his body into a river. Zentai went on to live a long life in Australia, and was only arrested for murder in 2005. Efforts to extradite him to Hungary to face trial failed, since such a thing as a “war crime” did not exist in Hungary at the time of the incident.
5 Rodolfo Graziani
Before being named Minister of Defence of the Italian Social Republic in World War II, Rodolfo Graziani served as viceroy in Italy’s colonial expansion into Libya and Ethiopia. After surviving an assassination attempt in Ethiopia, Graziani’s response was to initiate Yekatit 12, which would come to be known as the day when hordes of Ethiopians were indiscriminately massacred and imprisoned. According to Ethiopian sources, up to 30,000 people were killed by the Italians in response to the assassination attempt. Graziani was eventually sentenced to 19 years’ imprisonment, of which he only served four months. Since then he’s roamed the world freely, and has written several books. He was even honoured with a mausoleum and memorial park in a village south of Rome.
4 Omar al-Bashir
Omar al-Bashir is the President of Sudan. Under al-Bashir’s command, the Sudanese government has reportedly been responsible for 300,000 deaths. They have been accused of suppressing information flow by murdering and imprisoning witnesses, harassing journalists, and covering up mass graves. The United States has accused the Sudanese government of genocide, although the United Nations do not support this claim. On July 14, 2009, the Southern African Litigation Centre took the Sudanese government to court, intending to force the state to arrest al-Bashir. The next day the court ordered al-Bashir’s arrest, but he fled from the country before he could be captured.
3 Ernest Medina
Ernest Lou Medina was the commanding officer of the military unit responsible for the My Lai Massacre, which was the Vietnam War mass killing of up to 504 unarmed civilians. The American soldiers utterly demolished the small village, killing livestock, burning houses, closing wells, destroying crops, and murdering every living person found there. Victims included men, children, infants, and women, with some of the women being gang-raped and mutilated. Medina himself was suspected to have killed as many as three unarmed civilians in My Lai. He was court-martialed in 1971, but was found not-guilty of all charges that same year.
2 Joseph Kony
Viral video campaign and bizarre nudist antics of its originator aside, Joseph Kony is an incredibly evil, incredibly influential lunatic who is still at large somewhere in the Ugandan wood. To those 14 who haven’t seen Kony 2012: Joseph Kony is the leader and mastermind of the Lord’s Resistance Army, whose stated mission is to create and enforce a theocratic government in Uganada. In spite of their name and mission, the LRA’s means are far from holy; they have the largest rate of child abduction worldwide, forcing most of the abducted children to fight for their campaign, with some made to kill their parents as initiation.
1 Oskar Groening
Oskar Groening was known in World War II as the “book-keeper of Auschwitz”. Groening was in charge of counting the money taken by the Jewish prisoners. While not directly responsible for any deaths, he was an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 Jews in Auschwitz. He is known to have been cold and pitiless, saying of the murder of Jewish children: “The children, they're not the enemy at the moment. The enemy is the blood inside them.” After escaping justice for 70 years, the 94 year-old Groening was finally arrested in July 2015, and sentenced to four years in prison.