Update on War Crimes Complaint Against Rumsfeld

Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the primary group lodging the Complaint in Germany requesting that war crime charges be filed against Donald Rumsfeld, was on Democracy Now today.
A portion of the transcript (with my emphasis):

AMY GOODMAN: We go first to Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, joining us now from Berlin. Democracy Now! welcomes you, Michael. Can you explain the lawsuit and the major news conference that you held today? The world, for the first time, really, picking up this story.

MICHAEL RATNER: I think that's right, Amy. This is the first time they're really picking it up. The press conference was well attended. This is news all over the world. I mean, one of the things we noticed wbout this lawsuit was the number of groups willing to join. The Center for Constitutional Rights, we have a major group of human rights organizations under the title FIDH, the International Federation of Human Rights, which has 140 branches. We have Theo Van Boven, the former rapporteur for the United Nations on torture has joined the suit, Nobel Prize winners and others. It's really -- it’s taken off. I think people are tired, really tired and angry over what the United States has perpetrated in the name of fighting the so-called war on terror.

What we did today was file a 220-page complaint -- we've been working on this for quite a while -- against 14 high-level US officials, Rumsfeld being the lead one, but, of course, General Sanchez being in there, Tenet, the former head of the CIA, and a number of the lawyers who wrote some of the so-called torture memos, particularly lawyers Yoo and Bybee. The procedure here you is file that complaint with the prosecutor, and the prosecutor then decides whether or not to begin an investigation.

As you said, we did file a case -- a similar case in 2004. The prosecutor in 2004 dismissed the case. He dismissed it really for legal reasons on the face of it, but for political reasons, as well. The legal reasons, he said, were the United States, it appeared to him, was still investigating up the chain of command and was making an effort to look into who was responsible for the war crimes and the torture that went from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib. We thought that was a wrong ruling then. We didn't think there was any evidence the US was looking up the chain of command.

But here, we're now even in a different situation that makes that excuse really irrelevant and not possible again. Two things have happened. One is, a year and a half has passed since we filed the last case, and, of course, nothing has been done to go after Donald Rumsfeld or Tenet or Sanchez or any of the other people we've named. So, that alone says a lot about what the US is doing. But as you also mentioned in your opening, that the US has also immunized these people from war crimes. In the Military Commissions Act, which was signed by the President on October 17th, he amends the statute that makes violations of the Geneva Conventions criminal. That's called the War Crimes Act. He amends it, not just going forward, but he amends it going backwards, back to 9/11/2001, essentially immunizing these officials in the United States from any prosecutions for war crimes.

So now that we're in Germany, which is really a court of last resort -- we can't go to the United States courts, we can't go to the international courts. They have no jurisdiction. You have to go to national courts. We’re in Germany, in part because it has the best law on universal jurisdiction and in part because certainly in the past, and as far as we know today, some of the perpetrators are actually at military bases in Germany. Germany can no longer say, well, the US is seriously investigating, because the US has essentially immunized these defendants....

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    War Crimes (none / 0) (#1)
    by jazzcattg1 on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 04:49:33 PM EST
    I am curious as to why the Preznit and Cheney aren't included as defendants, being just as culpable as Rumsfeld et. al. - While in office are they given immunity?

    Their day will come (none / 0) (#2)
    by theologicus on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 06:18:28 PM EST
    How can you say. "You torture me", when you're already thinking about someone else.
    When he comes home you'll be in his arms and I'll be gone.
    But I know my day will come, I know someday I'll be the only one.

    Doobie doobie doo

    Trying to get attention?? (none / 0) (#3)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 06:28:44 PM EST
    A question.

    Do any of you actually believe this is anything more than a group of anti-war US/socialists trying to get attention?

    It's so hard to believe that (none / 0) (#4)
    by theologicus on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 06:31:41 PM EST
    some people might actually care about bringing torturers to justice.

    Yeah, right, socialists trying to get attention (none / 0) (#5)
    by aw on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 06:39:29 PM EST
     Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has remained dedicated to defending and advancing the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our work began on behalf of civil rights activists in the Jim Crow South and the racist North, and over the last four decades CCR has played an important role in many popular movements for social justice.

    During the seventies CCR brought and won Monell v. Department of Social Services, which enabled private individuals and civil rights groups to enforce the Constitution in court. Throughout the seventies and eighties, we won groundbreaking victories for women's rights, including NOW v. Terry, the first case to establish a "buffer zone" around abortion clinics besieged by Operation Rescue.

    In 1980, our Filártiga v. Peña-Irala created a right to sue for human rights violations occurring anywhere in the world under the then-obscure Alien Tort Claims Act. For 35 years, CCR has served as an incubator for progressive lawyering, producing numerous important precedents and innovative legal strategies that have become an established part of law and the legal culture.


    xx (1.00 / 1) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 08:02:38 PM EST
    I repeat what I said a few days ago. You guys are engaged in mental masturbation.

    But hey, that is your right.


    Go and learn (none / 0) (#8)
    by theologicus on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 08:57:27 PM EST
    what this means: mauvais foi.  Then look in the mirror.

    Ad hominem (none / 0) (#7)
    by Molly Bloom on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 08:50:11 PM EST
    A (fallacious) ad hominem argument has the basic form:
    A makes claim X.
    There is something objectionable about A.
    Therefore claim X is false.

    Is calling them evil socialists the best you can do Jim?


    anti-war comes in many flavors (none / 0) (#13)
    by Peaches on Wed Nov 15, 2006 at 01:18:29 PM EST
    It is much more than socialists, Jim. Rummy managed to make a lot of enemies during his tenure. I think the political climate has already made this request for charges against Rummy to be an embarassment for this administration at the very least. Whether it gets much farther than that, I doubt it. But, it doesn't do any harm to hope.

    Geman radio says this about the case (none / 0) (#9)
    by scribe on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 08:58:25 PM EST
    German MDR radio, part of the ARD network, put the following text from their news on their website (my translation follows):

    Strafanzeige gegen Rumsfeld läßt US-Regierung kalt

    Die US-Regierung hat gelassen auf eine Klage gegen Verteidigungsminister Rumsfeld in Deutschland reagiert. Das Pentagon erklärte, die Strafanzeige wegen Kriegsverbrechen und Menschenrechtsverletzungen sei unbegründet. Alle Anschuldigungen, die die Vorgänge in den Militärgefängnissen Abu Ghoreib und Guantánamo beträfen, seien bereits gründlich von US-Gerichten und der Militärjustiz untersucht worden. Elf ehemalige Gefangene der US-Streitkräfte hatten Rumsfeld bei der deutschen Bundesanwaltschaft angezeigt. Möglich macht dies das 2002 in Kraft getretene Völkerstrafgesetzbuch. Danach können Kriegsverbrechen, Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit und Völkermord unabhängig von Tatort und Herkunft der Täter auch von der deutschen Justiz verfolgt werden.

    zuletzt aktualisiert: 15. November 2006 | 03:07
    Quelle: MDR INFO

    Lawsuit against Rumsfeld leaves US Government cold

    The US Government has released its response to the suit in Germany against Defense secretary Rumsfeld.  The Pentagon explained,  the suit alleging war crimes and human rights violations is groundless.  All the allegations, which address the events in the military prisons Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were already adequately investigated in US courts and the military justice system.  Eleven former prisoners of the US military have filed this action against Rumsfeld with the Federal Justice ministry (Bundesanwaltschaft).  This is made possible by the human rights law, in force since 2002.  Under this statute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide can be pursued before the German justice system regardless of the location of the crime or the nationality of the actor.

    last updated:  3:07 am German time
    November 15, 2006

    As one can see, this is pretty plain vanilla.  Reiterates the government line, pretty much.  I'm not surprised by that, because they are pretty tight in editing the hourly news.  I haven't heard anything on the commentary parts of the program, nor the talk-show parts.  But, that doesn't mean it isn't there.  

    We'll just have to see how this develops.  The Germans are, themselves, still dealing with the human-skull-as-hood-ornament scandal involving some of their soldiers in Afghanistan.  They unearthed a grave and posed with the skull, propped it on the hood of their jeep, etc.  There are pictures out there (and on the front page of their tabloids). And, the NPD (far right, effectively Neo-nazi) party has been making bigger waves in parts of the old East Germany of late.  Plus the constant drumbeat of "how are we going to pay for all these social benefits".  So, their media has what are to them, bigger fish to fry.

    the increasingly desperate minority sez (none / 0) (#10)
    by Sailor on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 11:13:21 PM EST
    Do any of you actually believe this is anything more than a group of anti-war US/socialists trying to get attention?
    Once again the folks who insist on torture, illegal wars and constitutional abuses try to marginalize real Americans by calling the people who believe in America's ideals by stupid playground names.

    Gee, we stopped listening at 'traitors, treasonous, AQ sympathisers, terrorist lovers' ... etc.

    bush is at 31%, rethugs lost congress, and the quote above is an example why. They have nothing to offer but personal attacks.

    Playgrounds? (none / 0) (#16)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 03:06:13 PM EST
    Gee sailor, I never heard "socialist" on any playground I was ever own. Evidently you went to a different school.

    As for your expectation that things will change, you may note that Pelosi just lost a huge vote of confidence when Murtha was rejected by a huge amount.

    Now, if they won't let her have her choice for Majority leader, I don't think they will have much use for anything else she tries to do that is the least bit out of the middle, and certainly supporting this issue would be the kiss of death for her.

    But hey, she's a California girl, so who knows?


    heh heh heh !!! (none / 0) (#11)
    by Edger on Wed Nov 15, 2006 at 07:58:25 AM EST
    Careful with that subject line Sailor, Jeeze! I just sprayed coffee all over the monitor and it's still coming out of my nose. Thanks a lot. Heh!

    PPJ would have considered the... (none / 0) (#12)
    by Bill Arnett on Wed Nov 15, 2006 at 01:04:23 PM EST
    ...Nuremberg Trials to be the work of, "...engag[ing] in mental masturbation and ask, "Do any of you actually believe this is anything more than a group of anti-war US/socialists trying to get attention? ", OR he simply believes that it is not possible that Americans could have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    All men should be brought to face accusations of having committed a crime, the difference here is that Germany will accord all defendants their rights, while America now chooses to just lock SUSPECTS away, possibly forever, torture them, render them to other countries for torturing, or bush could just order the extra-judicial killing of the suspects with no proof whatever to bring into a real justice system.

    Way to go, mr. boosh.

    Yes (none / 0) (#14)
    by theologicus on Wed Nov 15, 2006 at 01:25:36 PM EST
    A nationalist is not only someone who overlooks atociities committed by his own side.  He has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

                                          -- George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism"


    Here's why (none / 0) (#15)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 02:59:36 PM EST
    Bill - Your snarky comment aside, Here is the latest, and why I said all of this is mental masturbation.

    The lawsuit filed in Germany this week against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Administration officials for alleged war crimes in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has little chance of making it into court. That's according to Andreas Zimmerman, professor of international criminal law at Kiel University who helped negotiate the Rome Treaty that founded the International Criminal Court and who drafted the German law under which Rumsfeld has been charged. Under German law, the decision over whether to try the case will rest with the federal prosecutor rather than with a judge. Federal prosecutors, of course, are subject to the wishes of the government, and the government is unlikely to press a case that would antagonize its American allies. "In theory the prosecutor could find him guilty of torture and put him in custody if he visited," says Zimmermann. "But in reality nothing is going to happen."

    So as I noted, this is about some people looking to get their 15 seconds of fame and their face on some left leaning news programs and blogs.

    Nothing less, nothing more.