The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association has filed suit in Germany against Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of 4 Iraqis who allege they were mistreated by American troops. A number of other high-ranking US officials are also named. AFP writes:
' The groups that filed the complaint said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity. It also makes military or civilian commanders who fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts liable. '
What is interesting about the Pentagon reaction to this suit is how frantic the Department of Defense seems. Although spokesman Larry DiRita dismissed it as "frivolous," he threatened Germany with dire consequences if the suit goes forward.
"Generally speaking, as is true anywhere, if these kinds of lawsuits take place with American servicemen in the cross-hairs, you bet it's something we take seriously . . . I think every government in the world, particularly a NATO ally, understands the potential effect on relations with the United States if these kinds of frivolous lawsuits were ever to see the light of day."
These remarks raise several questions. Why is DiRita hiding behind the fact that American servicemen are "in the cross-hairs? What have Rumsfeld's policies or legal problems got to do with grunts on the front line? You think they like Rumsfeld? Look what happened when he let them ask him questions.
Then, if the lawsuit is frivolous, why should it produce grave consequences for Germany? It should produce frivolity and hilarity if it is frivolous. It seems actually to be taken very seriously.
Is the real threat the damage to Rumsfeld's public image, or the danger that the lawsuit may prompt a discovery process?
Finally, surely DiRita is not suggesting that the Federal government actively interfere with a legal process? Wouldn't that be the Executive squelching the Judiciary? Isn't that contrary to the separation of Powers? Or is the new monarchism to be imposed on Germany as well, now that it is the model in Washington?
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Pentagon nervous about Germany's war crimes case against Rumsfeld
This is as it should be. Let's hope Germany moves forward with this. I look forward to the day that U.S. war criminals go to jail. Juan Cole at Informed Comment writes about the Pentagon threat against Germany: