It appears Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is about to be charged with war crimes in Germany. According to a Time Magazine report, several legal advocacy groups are going to file charges on Monday against Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and several generals. The charges are for war crimes on the basis that they had direct knowledge of or oversight of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
The lawsuit is based on a similar suit from 2004, which was brought by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and Germany's Republican Lawyers Association on behalf of five Iraqis allegedly mistreated by U.S. soldiers. The new suit has been expanded to include more plaintiffs, among them: Mohammed al-Qhatani, the "20th Hijacker" from the 9/11 attacks, and more far-left legal advocacy groups like the National Lawyers Guild and International Federation for Human Rights have signed on.
The suit will be filed under an unusual 2002 law, which claims German courts have universal extraterritorial jurisdiction in the case of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also holds military commanders liable for actions committed by their subordinates. The original suit was dismissed by the German courts in 2005 and dismissed again on appeal, but the effort to bring charges was revived this week when Rumsfeld resigned, thereby losing some of the legal protections he had as a government official.
The reassertion of the suit is also motivated by a presumption that the U.S. justice system would not pursue charges, especially in light of the protections afforded officials under the new Military Commissions Act. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights commented: "The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer."
Secretary Rumsfeld is the primary target of the suit because he is alleged to have authorized specific interrogation techniques, including "the use of dogs, stripping, hooding, stressed positions, chaining to the floor, sexual humiliation and those types of activities," according to Ratner of the CCR.