German prosecutor rejects war crimes complaint against Rumsfeld

[JURIST] The office of the German Federal Prosecutor [official website, in German] Friday declined to investigate a war crimes claim [ASIL backgrounder; PDF introduction, in English] against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] and other high-ranking US officials filed by human rights groups [JURIST report] seeking accountability for acts of torture allegedly committed at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and in Afghanistan [JURIST news archives]. The Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, the International Federation of Human Rights [advocacy websites], and over 40 other human rights groups and individuals had brought charges against Rumsfeld for the second time in November 2006, invoking Germany's universal jurisdiction law [PDF text]. The law permits German prosecutors to exercise discretion in prosecuting crimes against humanity and war crimes in German courts regardless of where they were committed. A similar claim brought in 2004 was rejected by a German prosecutor in February 2005 and the dismissal was later upheld [JURIST reports] by a German court.

The complaint, which also named US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] and former CIA director George Tenet [Sourcewatch profile] as defendants, was rejected on the basis that the connection with Germany was tenuous. Echoing the same reasons cited in 2005, Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms said US courts were a more appropriate forum for investigating the matter. The human rights groups criticized the prosecutor's decision not to interview former US Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski [CNN interview], who offered to testify. Lawyers are considering an appeal [press release] within German courts or in other countries that have universal jurisdiction laws [Amnesty backgrounder]. Reuters has more.



 

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