Archive » January 10, 2008
IT'S JUST MY OPINION
By Harris Sherline, Contributing Writer
War crimes investigation
A recent headline, “War Crimes Investigation Requested,” caught my attention.
What’s this about, I wondered? I thought it was probably another attempt by the World Court to assert its authority as the official arbiter of law throughout the world. To my surprise, the story was not about the World Court but about the German courts, where a complaint has been filed by lawyers who noted that “the point was simply to increase the pressure on top (American) brass they say are culpable. German federal prosecutors said they would examine the case.”
But, culpable of what? According to the Germans, abusing prisoners at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, that’s what.
How did this complaint come to be filed in a German court? They don’t have jurisdiction over the U.S. military and American officials, do they? Apparently, according to them, they do. As a matter a fact, German law provides for prosecution of war crimes that may actually occur in other nations. A 220-page lawsuit has been filed under the provisions of a German statute naming 13 U.S. officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense.
The claim is that Secretary Rumsfeld “personally ordered and condoned torture.” One of the leading witnesses is U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the former commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq, who was relieved of her command and demoted over the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. Of course, there’s no payback involved, is there?
If there is a legal case in this situation at all, shouldn’t it be heard in the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court, not in a German court?
The ICJ website states that the Court’s role is “to settle in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by States, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies.” So, it appears they don’t qualify as the venue to hear cases involving “crimes against humanity.”
However, the International Criminal Court was established as “a permanent tribunal to prosecute, ‘crimes against humanity,’” (WorldNetDaily, April 11, 2002), so why isn’t this particular case being tried there?
The United States “lodged strenuous objections to the ICC,” and the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee refused to release the treaty for a vote for a number of reasons, including:
• Concerns that crimes of aggression were not defined, which would make various U.S. military operations open to prosecution, including such acts as injury to a population’s “mental health” in the definition of “crimes against humanity.”
• U.S. citizens would be denied the guarantees of our Constitution.
• A U.S. president could conceivably be prosecuted by the court for engaging in military activity without first seeking approval from the U.N.
• “World events in the near future could find the U.S. and its citizens at the mercy of a panel of judges from non-Western nations, or of nations that seek to extort favorable trade agreements from the U.S.”
• “The ICC can prosecute whenever it deems a nation’s courts have failed to prosecute its own violators of ‘human rights.’”
So, now it is possible to prosecute someone in Germany for “crimes against humanity” that may have been committed elsewhere. For example, Human Rights Watch (hrw.org) recently reported, “Survivors of torture and the May 13 massacre of unarmed protesters in Andijan, Uzbekistan, filed a case on Monday in Germany calling for the prosecution of Zokirjon Almatov, Uzbekistan’s Minister of Internal Affairs, for crimes against humanity … Almatov is in Germany receiving medical treatment.”
This, at least, makes some, albeit limited, sense. That is, trying someone who is in Germany for crimes that may have been committed elsewhere. Although the fact that the individual involved is not a German citizen still makes the application of their law questionable in my mind.
Furthermore, the case in question against U.S. leaders makes it appear that it is an effort by the Germans to unilaterally extend their authority over citizens of other nations who may have committed crimes elsewhere around the world.
Nice try. Where did they get the authority to do this? If they try our citizens in absentia, will they then attempt to have them extradited to Germany?
I can think of a lot of people who should be tried for crimes against humanity who are not U.S. citizens and have committed the most heinous crimes imaginable in other countries. How about going after them?
But, that’s just my opinion.