Complaint to the United Nations charges German prosecutor caved to US pressure in dismissing torture case against Rumsfeld and other high officials for torture and war crimes

The four groups who seized the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers claim that German prosecutor dismissed their criminal complaint so that Rumsfeld could attend Munich Security Conference in February 2005.

A complaint was submitted today to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, claiming that the German Federal Prosecutor’s dismissal of a torture case which was filed by Iraq citizens against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others was dismissed for political reasons. The complaint was submitted to Mr. Leandro Despouy, on behalf of Iraqi citizens who were victims of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment when detained by the United States military in Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was filed jointly by Wolfgang Kaleck from the Republican Attorneys’ Association (RAV), the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Lawyers Against the War (LAW).

The complaint was filed to bring to the attention of Special Rapporteur Leandro Despouy the lack of independence of the German Federal Prosecutor when, in February 2005, he dismissed a criminal complaint against high-ranking U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as a result of the pressure illegally exercised on him by the United States. The groups claim that the United States violated the universally recognized principle of independence of prosecutors and that the German Federal Prosecutor failed to fulfill his prosecutorial duties in an independent, impartial and objective manner.

The initial criminal complaint was filed by RAV, CCR, FIDH and LAW in November 2004 in Germany under the Code of Crimes against International Law, which provides for universal jurisdiction for war crimes, crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. Defendants in this instance, ten high ranking civil and military officials were accused of having either ordered war crimes or failed to prevent war crimes being committed by their subordinates in Iraq, which is explicitly criminalized in the German Code. The recourse to the German universal justice system seemed necessary as the United States have clearly and repeatedly shown that they are unwilling to investigate the criminal responsibility of the officials named in the complaint.

But as soon as the criminal complaint was filed in Germany, strong pressure from the United States was immediately exercised to obtain the Prosecutor to dismiss it. The Pentagon warned German authorities that such “frivolous lawsuits”, if taken seriously, would affect the broader US-Germany relationship. In addition, the Pentagon canceled Rumsfeld’s participation at February 2005 Munich Security Conference. Two days before the conference, the prosecutor rejected the complaint and the Pentagon announced that Rumsfeld would attend.

“The plaintiffs in this case, victims of egregious human rights violations”, stated Wolfgang Kaleck, “have been unable to find justice until now: neither in Iraq, nor in the U.S. has any independent court investigated the criminal responsibility of the superiors involved in the crimes. In Germany, their first attempt failed because of political pressure that interfered with the work of the prosecutor.” In addition, as CCR President Michael Ratner explained it, “this unacceptable and appalling lack of justice has taken place in countries claiming to be models of democracy and of the rule of law.” “Somebody has to stop the Bush administration from beating up on the world’s justice systems the way it’s been beating up on its prisoners,” added Michael Mandel from LAW.

Sidiki Kaba, FIDH President, said he was hoping, along with RAV, CCR and LAW, that “being now made aware of the seriousness of the situation, the Special Rapporteur will address his concerns and recommendations to all the parties involved, and publicly shed light on the violations committed respectively by the United States government and the German justice system.”

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