The office of the German Federal Prosecutor Friday declined to investigate a war crimes claim against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking US officials filed by human rights groups seeking accountability for acts of torture allegedly committed at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and in Afghanistan.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, the International Federation of Human Rights, 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.
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 by a German court.
The complaint, which also named US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former CIA director George Tenet 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, who offered to testify. Lawyers are considering an appeal within German courts or in other countries that have universal jurisdiction laws