Geneva - Berlin - New York, Paris - The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR, New York), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH, Paris), and the Republican Attorneys’ Association (RAV, Berlin), welcome the annual report of Leandro Despouy, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, which recognizes the lack of independence with which the German prosecutorial authorities decided 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. Also today, the groups 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.
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 for political rather than legal reasons, i.e. 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.
CCR, FIDH and RAV argued that the dismissal of the case for what could only have been political reasons, i.e. to avoid embarrassing the government of the United States, was a clear violation of universally recognized principles of judicial independence, given the abundance of irrefutable evidence which accompanied the complaint.
Taking account of extraordinary new information that has come to light over the past two years, an updated 400-page complaint was filed in November 2006 by the original three groups, as well as more than 40 organizations and individuals from all over the world that joined the case as co-plaintiffs. However, on 27 April 2007, Germany’s new Federal Prosecutor, Monika Harms, announced her refusal to proceed with an investigation, arguing that the crimes bear no link to Germany, a requirement specifically excluded by German law. Attorneys on the case charge that the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office has again failed to fulfill its duties in an independent, impartial and objective manner.
Today 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.”
CCR, FIDH and RAV issued the following joint statement:
“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. 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.
“CCR, FIDH and RAV ask all members of the Human Rights Council to act upon Special Rapporteur Despouy’s report by reaffirming the independence of prosecutors, in particular for acts of torture involving public officials; and addressing its concerns and recommendations to all the parties involved and to publicly shed light on the violations committed respectively by the United States government and the German justice system.”