Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rummy to be indicted in Germany?

Rumsfeld could face criminal charges over prisoner abuse

Saturday 11th November, 2006

Moves are afoot in Germany to bring criminal charges against a number of
Bush administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of Defense,
Donald Rumsfeld.<br />
<br />
Journalist Adam Zagorin, writing for TIME magazine, said new legal
documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek
a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other
senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in
abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention
facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. <br />
<br />
The plaintiffs in the case, says the TIME article, include 11 Iraqis who
were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held
at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th
hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. <br />
<br />
TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special
interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says
produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of
his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced
nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress
positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation
techniques. <br />
<br />
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one of the witnesses who will testify
on their behalf is former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time
commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq. Karpinski, who the lawyers
say will be in Germany next week to publicly address her accusations in
the case, has issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing,
which says, in part, "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility [for
what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top of the chain of
command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld." <br />
<br />
A spokesperson for the Pentagon told TIME there would be no comment since
the case has not yet been filed. <br />
<br />
Along with Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Tenet, the other defendants in the case
are Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone; former
assistant attorney general Jay Bybee; former deputy assisant attorney
general John Yoo; General Counsel for the Department of Defense William
James Haynes II; and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's
chief of staff.<br />
<br />
Senior military officers named in the filing are General Ricardo Sanchez,
the former top Army official in Iraq; Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former
commander of Guantanamo; senior Iraq commander, Major General Walter
Wojdakowski; and Col. Thomas Pappas, the one-time head of military
intelligence at Abu Ghraib. <br />
<br />
Germany was chosen for the court filing, says TIME, because German law
provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war
crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed,
a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004,
which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry
response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset.
Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case a "a
big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely
impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend
a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the
keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the
conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter,
saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not
deal with allegations in the complaint. <br />
<br />
In bringing the new case, however, the plaintiffs argue that circumstances
have changed in two important ways. Rumsfeld's resignation, they say,
means that the former Defense Secretary will lose the legal immunity
usually accorded high government officials. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue
that the German prosecutor's reasoning for rejecting the previous case -
that U.S. authorities were dealing with the issue - has been proven wrong.
<br />
<br />
"The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to
investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be
clearer," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional
Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action in
Germany. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by
Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution in the U.S. of
those involved in detention and interrogation abuses of foreigners held
abroad in American custody going to back to Sept. 11, 2001. As a result,
Ratner contends, the legal arguments underlying the German prosecutor's
previous inaction no longer hold up. <br />
<br />
Whatever the legal merits of the case, it is the latest example of efforts
in Western Europe by critics of U.S. tactics in the war on terror to call
those involved to account in court. In Germany, investigations are under
way in parliament concerning cooperation between the CIA and German
intelligence on rendition - the kidnapping of suspected terrorists and
their removal to third countries for interrogation. Other legal inquiries
involving rendition are under way in both Italy and Spain. <br />
<br />
U.S. officials have long feared that legal proceedings against "war
criminals" could be used to settle political scores. In 1998, for example,
former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet - whose military coup was
supported by the Nixon administration - was arrested in the U.K. and held
for 16 months in an extradition battle led by a Spanish magistrate seeking
to charge him with war crimes. He was ultimately released and returned to
Chile. More recently, a Belgian court tried to bring charges against then
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for alleged crimes against
Palestinians. <br />
<br />
For its part, says the TIME report, the Bush Administration has rejected
adherence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on grounds that it
could be used to unjustly prosecute U.S. officials. The ICC is the first
permanent tribunal established to prosecute war crimes, genocide and other
crimes against humanity.

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posted by u2r2h at 10:46 PM


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