Posted by: bklunk | November 20, 2006

International Law’s Most Wanted?

I wish ddellari had more comment about this item from Tony Arend’s blog, but Tony didn’t have much to say about it either. Maybe others will have more to say.

Germany Asked to Begin Investigation of Rumsfeld and Other Current and Former U.S. Officials

URL: Germany Asked to Begin Investigation of Rumsfeld and Other Current and Former U.S. Officials

A Germany federal prosecutor has been asked by the Center for Constitutional Rights to investigate Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials for war crimes.  The article said that the complaint was filed on behalf of twelve individuals, eleven having been prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and one having been held at Guantanamo Bay.  All have asserted that they were tortured while in custody.  This is a complaint from 2004 that is being revisited because of new developments cited in the article, including the passage of the Military Commissions Act and the recent resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.  The complaint says that Rumsfeld and others (including current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales) authorized the use of torture or other dehumanizing practices or that they were aware of their use.  This would be in violation of the Geneva Convention, the 1984 Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  These current and former United States government officials can be investigated for acting against these treaties because the United States is a signatorty to all of them.  An interesting point in the article is that this is being investigated in Germany.  Why Germany?  A German prosecutor is being asked to investigate these allegations of torture because Germany ratified the Code of Crimes against International Law (CCIL).  This then, as stated in the article, gives Germany “universal jurisdiction” for investigating war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

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  1. For Pete’s sake…shouldn’t the world be focusing on more pertinent problems, like perhaps…I dunno, most of Africa? That is not to say that we should be left unchecked by the international community, but I’m not sure this is really an appropriate use of German resources.

  2. A couple things: It seems like Frankie is right that there are much more pertinent problems to be addressed then this. Moreover, I question whether Germany’s motives for pursuing this are more out of spite over disagreement concerning Iraq than out of a true desire to see justice done. I also wonder whether it springs from a desire for Germany to set itself as the moral arbiter of the world stage. People often speak of the arrogance of Americans, perhaps not without good cause, but for Germany to assert moral supremacy over the U.S reeks of arrogance. I don’t think it arrogant to say that America, with its faults and mistakes, is a profound force for good on the world stage and I take issue with Germany attempting to assert the moral high ground.

  3. I do agree with both of you. There are more pertinent issues and I loved Jim’s point that “for Germany to assert moral supremacy over the U.S reeks of arrogance.” Remember, the Germans are a proud people, so this doesnt suprise me. However, I also think that this may not be an altogether bad thing. It is important that the US comply with the inverstigation. We do not want to act as though it is OK for us to commit war crimes and resist investigation and/or prosecution. This could show the world that we are going to take responibility for our actions and as we come against countries that are using torture, we must make sure that our practices are free of this as well.

  4. How can you say that this issue is not pertinent? If anything, it is MORE pertinent than saving Africa, because of the ramifications this kind of torture has on American national security. If these men were beaten, tortured, humiliated, all the while denied habeas corpus among any other human rights, even if they were innocent before they are sure to come out of a place like that hating America. This creates more terrorists, who ultimately want to kill the “infidels.”

    Not only do these type of atrocities worsen our relations with the Arab and Muslim world, shouldn’t people who are responsible for torture and the denial of human rights be held accountable? By ignoring this and focusing solely on Africa, you are setting yourself up to be permeated by injustice and extremists within your own country.

    During the Cold War, we focused mainly on communism and not so much on terrorism. That came around to bite us in the ass.

  5. When I came across this article I was very torn. I the one hand, it did seem to me like Germany was grand-standing, showing off what it preceives to be its own moral authority. With the run up to the war in Iraq, Chancellor Schroeder was one of the most out-spoken critics of an invasion, so a little spite now would not be out of the question. On the other hand, if crimes were committed, then those who committed them should be punished, including government officials. However, where is the line drawn? My understanding is that the European Union objects to capital punishment on human rights grounds. Most states in the United States view it differently. If the US government seeks the death penalty in a case, does that give Germany the right to intervene? Yes, I know its not the same thing, and that many people in the United States object to capital punishment, but it seems to me that a line should be drawn. I know that Donald Rumsfeld isn’t the most popular person in this country, but I’m nervous that investigations of the sort that Germany is planning to conduct may be used as a tactic when two countries disagree. In which case, such prosecutions would be dangerous and distracting, not to mention loose all moral authority.

  6. Everyone makes a good point yes there are many other problems going on in the world that may out weigh this one. However, if crimes were committed then those who were involved should be punished even if they are high ranking U.S. government officials. My problem with all of this is that it seems that Germany is going to handle all of the investigations. If this is the case it is going to cause controversy because of their stance on the war in Iraq. I believe somewhere are 17 soldiers have been punished for their actions committed in Abu Ghraib, so people that have committed crimes have been punished. Its just the process going through someone who was completely again the war may tend to stretch the facts a little bit. I don’t think anything major will come out of these investigations, and whether it’s right or wrong the U.S. government and the Bush Administration will protect those who may be targeted in this investigation

  7. I feel that Germany has found it quite convenient to step up its morals at a time when it looks as if perhaps the U.S. has faltered in its interrogation tactics. Why is Germany taking this step? Personally, I feel that Germany’s actions are too late and hypocritical. I find it very interesting that they did not wish to partake in the invasion of Iraq, where, although perhaps no WMDs were found, there was human torture to extents that are unfathonable to those who had not experienced it first-hand. Where were they then? Why didn’t they raise a hand to try and stop that? I feel that this act by Germany may be nothing more than the state flexing its muscle, of which it doesn’t have a whole lot to begin with, to show the world’s military and economic leader that that it is susceptible to what other nation’s think, and that it’s leaders are not immune to the sting of international questioning.

  8. I think Ben is way off in all of his comments but I will focus on the one that I think he misses the point the most on, “During the Cold War, we focused mainly on communism and not so much on terrorism. That came around to bite us in the ass.” It would be anything but intelligent to focus resources away from the Cold War and fighting Communism for other projects. While fighting terrorists is important, we wouldn’t be able to do so if the Soviets ruled our country. Ronald Reagan understood this and increased our defense budget to a level that bankrupted the Soviet economy. If Ben is looking for someone to blame for not fighting terrorists enough before events like 9-11 look no further than Bill Clinton, who let Bin Laden get away when we had him captured. Clinton himself admits this was one of the biggest failures in his eight years in office.

  9. Responding to Al H, the reason Reagan built up such a huge army and focused solely on the Soviet Union is because of the neoconservative thought that pervaded his administration. Neoconservatives believe that idealism and liberalism have failed, as proven by historical precedents. They believe that in order to maintain American preeminence in the world, we must unite the people against a common enemy. This was found in the Soviet Union.
    Ronald Reagan came to office speaking of the “evil empire” and how it would stop at nothing to see our destruction. Although the Soviet Union was a real threat, it was played up much more than it was in reality. By the time Reagan was in office, the Soviet Union was tearing itself apart, and Gorbachev realized that he would need to make reforms to try to save it. By then it was far too late to salvage any part of that system.
    I stand by my statements that the US focused too much on the threat of the Soviet Union and not enough on other threats.
    And to blame Bill Clinton for the terror we now face is just silly. He was handed a government trained to fight the Cold War. He drastically reformed the military, CIA, counterterrorism, and actually gave the US budget a surplus. He then handed his successor, George W. Bush, one of the best counterterrorist experts in the business: Dick Clarke. What did George Bush do? He demoted him! Reports such as “bin Laden determined to strike in the United States” were placed on the back shelf, b/c Bush saw terrorism as something that could not be solved with direct confrontation. He saw the failure of the Oslo Accords, the Camp David Agreements, etc., and he created a policy of nonintervention: of simply ignoring it.
    Now I am not blaming only President Bush. Placing the blame on one person neglects the other 99 million factors that go into decision making, actions, and outcomes.
    And as to my other comments that those responsible for torture and violations of human rights should be held accountable for their atrocious actions, where was I “way off”?

  10. I agree with the argument that Germany shouldn’t be personally upstaging the U.S. through moral supremacy, but do think that this action in investigating the crimes being commited at Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Ghraib is very important. I wonder if this action of prosecution against U.S. officials would have been looked at differently if it had come from the EU as a whole, or possibly some members of the UN security council. So I think next time these actions are to take place against the U.S. they should happen with a group of countries, and not just one country, as this can lead to concerns as to the true nature of why an investigation needs to be carried out.

  11. I am curious as to what the new evidence is myself. I wish there was more on this article because all it does is raise questions for me. There is no doubt in my mind that illegal things took place in both of those detainee sites. We all saw video clips on the news that get leaked, although I haven’t seen one in awhile. It usually has one prisoner being beaten down among other things by a host of guards. And the usual response from the public is outrage, but the military response is at most a dishonorable discharge, which seems ironic to me because all that does is send them home, some punishment for beating a person. The only thing I don’t know is how much the president actually knew about what was actually going on at those places. The other thing that I find ironic is that Germany is leading the investigation into torture and criminal acts. Not like they don’t have a storied history themselves. But we’ll see what this investigation leads to.

  12. While there may be more pertinent problems in the world the United States has been the standard and the enforcer of human rights around the world. Now the United States has been accused of torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and at secret prisons around the world. If the United States sees forms of torture as appropriate means to get information how will this stop our citizens from being tortured abroad? This is an issue that needs to be addressed but I am not sure Germany should have the means to do so. If war crimes did occur there are international tribunals to address these crimes and I believe more could be done at that level, though the US does have problems with recognizing the ICC and bilateral agreements have been formed to prevent the US from going to the ICC, a whole other problem in itself.

  13. It seems very interesting to me that Germany chose to go it alone in calling out these U.S. officials. However, I don’t think one can classify it as inappropriate or unimportant. This issue deals with protecting basic human rights outlined within the Geneva convention and I think it is difficult to pronounce it as more or less important than the fight to ensure basic human rights for all people in Africa. Both are very important issues the international community needs to address, however for one country to so blatantly call out another may not be appropriate in this case.

  14. It would be hypocritical to see the U.S. resort to torture. United States military forces are in Iraq and Afghanistan to promote and secure freedom, human rights, and democracy for the citizens of both countries. American soldiers have fought and died to defeat and destroy repressive and torturous regimes. The destruction of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein’s government were calculated strikes aimed at ending repulsive evils such as torture. So, to then employ the same methods of the evil regimes they have worked so hard to overthrow would indeed be hypocritical. It is important that America send a consistent message not only to Iraqis and Afghanis, but also to the world. Therefore, the U.S. should steer clear of using torture as a means to gain information and stick to more civil methods of integration so that it sets the correct example for Afghanistan and Iraq as the two countries struggle to construct and maintain humane democracies.

  15. There are definately more important things to address on the international agenda now, but I do believe this “action” that is being attempted by Germany shows a seemingly healthy international community, as protesters can and are signs of a “healthy democracy”. If the actions of one country are never questioned by another, no matter how much power that country may hold, a corrupt and ineffective system will emerge. I’m not saying that much energy should be spent on this issue, I just see the action as a healthy one.

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