German prosecutors rejects torture probe of US officials

German federal prosecutors on Friday rejected a U.S. group's formal request to investigate allegations that current and former Bush administration officials were complicit in the torture of military prisoners.

German prosecutors rejects torture probe of US officials
German federal prosecutors on Friday rejected a U.S. group's formal request to investigate allegations that current and former Bush administration officials were complicit in the torture of military prisoners.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights accused former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and eight other officials of either ordering, aiding or failing to prevent the torture.

It filed the complaint on behalf of 11 Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib and Mohamad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo Bay who has been accused of wanting to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

German law allows the prosecution of war crimes regardless of where they were committed, and permits any citizen or group to formally request a criminal investigation.

In rejecting the complaint, prosecutors said that it was up to the U.S. to hold any inquiry, adding that there were no indications U.S. authorities or courts would not conduct one.

Center for Constitutional Rights President Michael Ratner vowed to pursue an appeal in Germany or action in another country.

"If Germany is not willing to enforce their law we think other countries will be — we're not going to leave a stone unturned," Ratner said by telephone from New York. "I think everyone recognizes that high-level U.S. officials ran a torture program around the world."

The prosecutor's office gave the same reasons for declining to investigate a more limited complaint in 2005.

Attorneys leading the case had said, however, that they thought they had a better chance of success this time around, as they had documents from 2005 congressional hearings suggesting that Rumsfeld approved harsh methods when al-Qahtani would not crack under normal questioning.

After FBI agents raised concerns, the documents showed, military investigators began reviewing the case and in July 2005 said they confirmed abusive and degrading treatment that included forcing al-Qahtani to wear a bra, dance with another man, stand naked in front of women and behave like a dog. Still, the Pentagon determined that no torture had occurred.

The attorneys were also hopeful that testimony from former U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski — the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq — would bolster their case.

When the complaint was filed, Karpinski — who was relieved of her command and demoted to colonel in 2005 — told reporters in Berlin that she would testify against her superiors because only a handful of low-ranking soldiers have been convicted in the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

"People who are far more culpable and responsible have walked away blameless," Karpinski said.

Ratner criticized German prosecutors for not interviewing Karpinski or other witnesses.

Prosecutors also dismissed the arguments that Germany should investigate the charges because U.S. flights carrying prisoners had crossed German airspace, and that some of the military personnel involved had been stationed in the country.

"The fact that some defendants were temporarily stationed at U.S. bases in the Federal Republic of Germany is not enough to bring a case," they wrote.

Wolfgang Kaleck, the main German lawyer involved in the complaint, did not immediately return calls to his Berlin office.

The lawyers pushing for the German investigation said the case could not be brought with the International Criminal Court, because the United States is not a member, and could not be pursued through the U.N. because the U.S. has veto power.
Last Mod: 27 Nisan 2007, 19:33
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