Universal Jurisdiction: The German Case Against Donald Rumsfeld

By Thomas F. Gede
June 03, 2007
On April 27, 2007, the German Federal Prosecutor General announced that she would not commence an investigation against former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others for international human rights violations associated with the handling of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantánamo in Cuba. For the second time within the last two years, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s office declined to commence an investigation against Rumsfeld, based upon a criminal accusation fi led by German human rights lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck, on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other organizations and individuals. Kaleck argued for, among other things, the application of Germany’s Code of Crimes Against International Law (CCAIL), a controversial law adopted in 2002 that purports to extend Germany’s domestic criminal law jurisdiction to crimes against international law, specifi cally genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. While the German law restrains itself in significant ways, providing the discretion used by the prosecutor in Karlsruhe to dismiss the Rumsfeld complaint, it nonetheless purports to do what most “universal jurisdiction” laws do: apply criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes against international law occurred outside of the prosecuting state, regardless of nationality, residence or relation to the prosecuting country....