Center for Constitutional Rights
FEBRUARY 10, 2005
11:39 AM
CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights 
Mahdis Keshavarz at 212-260-5000
Center for Constitutional Rights Blasts Ruling of German Prosecutor Refusing to Hear War Crimes Case Against Rumsfeld
Attorneys in the Case Say Decision Is Politically Motivated, Timed For Rumsfeld’s Visit and Only a Temporary Setback
NEW YORK, NY -- February 10 -- The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today expressed dismay at the erroneous ruling by German courts concluding that the United States is not unwilling to prosecute high-ranking officials for the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq and that it is up to the United States to pursue initial legal action against the alleged perpetrators of torture and their superiors. The decision claimed that German prosecutors would intervene only if U.S. authorities failed to act. The failure of the U.S. to do so was one of the primary arguments of the complaint. Scott Horton, an expert on international law and the Chair of the International Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, had filed a detailed opinion with the German prosecutor on Monday, finding that the U.S. would not conduct a genuine investigation up the chain of command for war crimes and concluding that no criminal prosecution would occur in the United States. He detailed a study he conducted of Major General George R. Fay’s investigation of the Abu Ghraib abuses (The Fay Report, spring 2004) that shows that the investigation was in fact designed to cover up the role of high-ranking officials. He reports that “certain senior officials whose conduct in this affair bears close scrutiny, were explicitly ‘protected’ or ‘shielded’ by withholding information from investigators or by providing security classifications that made such investigation possible…in each case, the fact that these individuals possessed information on Rumsfeld’s involvement was essential to the decision to shield them.”

“This is a purely political decision designed to evade justice and allow Rumsfeld to attend the Munich Security Conference” stated Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We will absolutely contest this decision by launching an appeal. It is a temporary setback. The prosecutor did not even discuss the materials, obvious to all, that demonstrate that the Bush administration is unwilling to prosecute anyone up the chain of command. We will pursue Rumsfeld and others. They should be worried; if not today, tomorrow. Just look at what happened to Pinochet.”

When questioned about the case at a Pentagon press conference earlier this month, Rumsfeld said that he may refuse to attend the annual security conference in Munich because of CCR’s lawsuit. He stated ominously, “whether I end up there, we'll soon know. It will be a week, and we'll find out,” prompting critics to suggest that he was trying to intimidate the Germans into rushing their investigation.

CCR added hundreds of pages of new documents to the suit on Monday of this week and named newly-confirmed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the complaint. CCR said the prosecutor could not have even read these materials, which shows how anxious they are to please the Bush Administration—dismiss first, read later.

CCR Vice President Peter Weiss said, “The Prosecutor’s statement that dismissal was warranted because German individuals are not involved makes a mockery of the law under which the complaint was filed, which states specifically that it is intended to deal with war crimes committed anywhere by anyone. His statement that there is no reason to believe that Rumsfeld will not be prosecuted in the United States reaches a new height in the annals of incredibility.”

The original complaint was filed with the German Federal Prosecutor in Karlsruhe, Germany, on November 30, 2004, by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and asked the Prosecutor to investigate the role of ten high-ranking U.S. officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, in the abuse of detainees in Iraq. Under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, which is part of German law, suspected war criminals may be prosecuted irrespective of where they are located. In addition, at least three of the defendants, LTG Ricardo Sanchez, MG Walter Wojdakowski and Colonel Thomas Pappas, are stationed in Germany, providing the Prosecutor with another basis to investigate. The impossibility of an independent and far-reaching domestic investigation of high-ranking U.S. officials coupled with the United States’ refusal to join the International Criminal Court made the German court a court of last resort.