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German prosecutor rejects war crimes complaint against Rumsfeld

[JURIST] The office of the German Federal Prosecutor [official website, in German] Friday declined to investigate a war crimes claim [ASIL backgrounder; PDF introduction, in English] against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] and other high-ranking US officials filed by human rights groups [JURIST report] seeking accountability for acts of torture allegedly committed at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and in Afghanistan [JURIST news archives]. The Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, the International Federation of Human Rights [advocacy websites], 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 [PDF text]. 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 [JURIST reports] by a German court.

The complaint, which also named US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] and former CIA director George Tenet [Sourcewatch profile] 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 [CNN interview], who offered to testify. Lawyers are considering an appeal [press release] within German courts or in other countries that have universal jurisdiction laws [Amnesty backgrounder]. Reuters has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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