Put Rumsfeld, Gonzales back on the dock for war crimes - UN expert

Press Esc
Wednesday June 13, 2007

Politicians forced German prosecutors not to open an investigation into allegations of torture raised in a complaint filed against Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others, according a damning report by the top UN judicial independence expert who urged German authorities to re-opening the case.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights in Paris, and the Republican Attorneys’ Association (RAV, Berlin), welcomed the annual report of Leandro Despouy, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and filed a motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of the 2006 case with the Office of the Federal Prosecutor, relying in part on the UN Special Rapporteur’s report to the Human Rights Council.

Germany’s Federal Prosecutor announced in April that she would not proceed with an investigation against the high-ranking US officials for torture and other war crimes committed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.

The 400-page complaint was filed on November 14, 2006, by Berlin Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck on behalf of 45 other international and national human rights groups, 12 Iraqi citizens who were held in Abu Ghraib, and one Saudi citizen still held at Guantánamo.

On 27 February 2006, CCR, FIDH and RAV submitted a petition to Mr. Despouy, claiming that the case filed in 2004 on behalf of Iraqi citizens who were tortured while detained at Abu Ghraib and other US detention centers, was evidently dismissed by the German Federal Prosecutor to avoid offending the US government.

It had been brought under Germany’s universal jurisdiction law, the 2002 Code of Crimes against International Law, which provides for the prosecution of war criminals wherever they are found and “even when the offence was committed abroad and bears no relation to Germany.”

Today, on the opening day of the UN Human Rights Council’s fifth session, Mr. Despouy noted with concern that the alleged perpetrators of the violations referred in his allegation letter of 13 July 2006 sent to the government of Germany, have still not been prosecuted in the United States and that, on the contrary, new legislation has been adopted in the US that practically impedes the prosecution of public officials suspected of being responsible for those acts.

Wolfgang Kaleck, the Berlin attorney representing the victims and plaintiffs, has filed a motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of the 2006 case with the Office of the Federal Prosecutor, relying in part on the UN Special Rapporteur’s report to the Human Rights Council.

Mr. Despouy writes in his report that he “hopes that this complaint will be considered with the required independence, in accordance with applicable international norms and standards.”

“While the primary obligation to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed by US officials rests with the US government, it is abundantly clear by now that no such prosecutions will be brought in the United States against higher-ups in the chain of command," the three groups said in a joint statement. "Furthermore, the Bush administration has refused to join the International Criminal Court, precisely to shield its citizens from prosecution in that court. This explains our resort to Germany’s universal jurisdiction law in the present case."

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