Published on Wednesday, February 2, 2005 by Agence France Presse
Rumsfeld Mulls German Visit Amid Concern Over Possible War Crimes Prosecution
WASHINGTON - Concern that US leaders and military personnel risk prosecution in Germany for alleged war crimes has become a factor in deciding whether US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will attend an international security conference in Munich, a Pentagon spokesman said.
US defense secretaries have rarely missed the Munich conference, an annual gathering of the world's top defense and national security officials and experts for two days of frank debate on major issues of war and peace.
But Rumsfeld has announced no plans to attend this year's meeting February 11-13 even though he will be attending a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Nice, France just before it.
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita said it remains to be determined whether Rumsfeld will attend the Munich meeting. The meeting's organizer, Horst Teltschik, said last month Rumsfeld was not going.
Rumsfeld was among ten high-ranking US civilian and military officials named in a criminal complaint filed November 30 with a German federal prosecutor by a US legal rights group seeking an investigation into the Americans' role in the torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq .
Under Germany's Code of Crimes Against International Law, which was introduced in 2002, German courts have universal jurisdiction in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Acknowledging US concern about the German law, DiRita told AFP, "It's a factor in the decision" on whether Rumsfeld attends the Munich conference.
"It's not just a question of the secretary's travel. We have many thousands of US forces stationed there, some of which are named in this brief. So it's a big, big problem," he said.
He said the issue was being "worked on a government-wide basis."
"My impression is the German government understands the gravity of this matter, but there are some unique aspects that will take time to address," he said.
A Berlin newspaper reported last week that the German federal prosecutor opted not to take legal action against Rumsfeld because no German citizen was a victim of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.
But the New York-based Center For Constitution Rights, which filed the initial complaint, said Friday it has filed new documents in the case, contending that Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzalez had implicated himself in war crimes in Iraq, including torture at Aby Ghraib, in his Senate confirmation testimony.
Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse