Charges of War Crimes against Rumsfeld may be dropped

Friday, January 28, 2005

German prosecutor may drop war crimes case against Rumsfeld
Jeannie Shawl
[JURIST] German newspaper Tagesspiegel reported Friday that German federal prosecutor Kay Nehm will not pursue war crimes charges against US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but German officials are saying that a decision has not yet been made. Criminal charges have been filed against Rumsfeld and other senior officials on behalf of four Iraqi citizens. Rumsfeld is accused of being responsible for the torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Tagesspiegel reports that Nehm can only pursue the charges in the complaint [English translation, PDF, Center for Constitutional Rights backgrounder] if Germans were suspected of committing crimes or were the victims of crimes.

more from APF:

German justice authorities reportedly will not take legal action against US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq. But prosecutors have yet to decide.

German court officials have rejected claims in the daily newspaper Tagesspiegel Friday that German federal prosecutor Kay Nehm would not seek to try Rumsfeld because no Germans were victims of the US troop offences at the notorious prison near Baghdad.

"We have yet to decide whether or not to pursue the charge," said a federal court spokesman Thursday.

But the paper reported that under current law, Nehm could only take action if Germans were suspected of committing crimes or of being the victims of crimes.

On November 30, an international legal team filed a criminal complaint in Berlin against Rumsfeld and other senior US officials over the abuses.

The German factor

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association said they and four Iraqi citizens mistreated by US soldiers were seeking a probe by German prosecutors of US policy-makers.

They said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The CCR said that the four Iraqis it was representing had been victims of mistreatment including electric shock, severe beatings, sleep and food deprivation and sexual abuse while in US custody.

"Frivolous lawsuits"

Rumsfeld was scheduled to take part in an international security conference in the southern city of Munich next month, but pulled out due to prior commitments amid speculation he was snubbing Germany over the possible legal action.

In December, the Pentagon expressed concern over the criminal complaint and warned that "frivolous lawsuits" could affect broader US-German relations.

According to Human Rights Watch, two investigations have shown that Rumsfeld's policies on interrogation had contributed to torture and abuse in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"But the investigators lacked the mandate -- or the independence -- to draw the obvious conclusions regarding the political or legal responsibility of Rumsfeld or others who approved illegal tactics," the group said last week.

Rumsfeld to Bypass Munich Conference
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will not attend the Munich Security Conference in February. Some say the cancellation is likely due to a war crimes complaint against him that was filed in a German court. (Jan. 21, 2005)

Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld Threatens US-German Relations
The Pentagon made thinly veiled threats on Monday, suggesting US-German relations could be at risk if a criminal complaint filed in German courts over Abu Ghraib proceeds.(Dec. 14, 2005)

Rumsfeld Sued for Alleged War Crimes
Alleging responsibility for war crimes and torture at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, a human rights group has filed a criminal complaint in Germany against US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top US officials.(Nov. 11, 2004)


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