Croatian Actor wins damages for “Nazi war criminal” error

Independent settles claim for front page photo mistake

A Croatian actor has accepted undisclosed libel damages after The Independent wrongly identified him as a Nazi war criminal.

Ljubomir Jurkovic brought libel proceedings against the newspaper after his photograph was used to illustrate a  front page story about the death of Samuel Kunz, an alleged Nazi war criminal who had served as a guard at the Belzec death camp in eastern Poland.

Mr Jurkovic had played a leading role in a 2007 Croatian film titled “The Living and the Dead” (Zivi i mrtvi).  The picture used was actually of Mr Jurkovic in his role as that of a Croatian Ustasa officer (the Croatian Fascist movement).

The front-page article in November 2010 was dominated by a photograph of Mr Jurkovic with the headline: “Wanted for the deaths of 430,000 Jews. Evaded Justice for 67 Years. Died a free man.” The article was about the death of Samuel Kunz in Bonn, Germany, at the age of 89. The photograph of Mr Jurkovic was captioned “A war-time image thought to show Samuel Kunz, who was third on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s list of most wanted Nazi war criminals”.

An apology was published on 17 December 2010 in The Independent and also online, stating that the image used was not that of Samuel Kunz. That apology was repeated on behalf of the paper by way of a statement read in open court before Mrs Justice Sharp on 19 March 2013.

5RB’s Christina Michalos (instructed by De Cruz Solicitors) acted on behalf of the Claimant and Matthew Nicklin (instructed by RPC) on behalf of the Defendants.