German War Crimes Complaint Against Donald Rumsfeld, et al. Historic Case

At a Glance

Current Status 

In November 2007, CCR, FIDH, and RAV appealed the decision of the German Federal Prosecutor not to open an investigation. On April 21, 2009, the Stuttgart Regional Appeals Court dismissed the appeal. See the original and the translated Court decision attached below. A motion for reconsideration was filed on May 25, 2009, which was denied.

Date Filed: 

November 14, 2006

Co-Counsel 

Wolfgang Kaleck, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Republican Attorneys' Association (RAV)

Case Description 

One hundred and fifty-five countries, including Germany and the United States, are party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). Those countries have committed to investigating, prosecuting and punishing torturers.

To this end, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor to open an investigation and, ultimately, a criminal prosecution of high-ranking U.S. officials for authorizing war crimes in the context of the so-called “war on terror.”

The complaint is brought on behalf of 12 torture victims – 12 Iraqi citizens who were held at Abu Ghraib prison and one Guantánamo detainee, CCR client Mohammed al-Qahtani – and was filed by CCR, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Republican Attorneys' Association (RAV), and others, all represented by Berlin Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck.

The complaint alleges that the defendants “ordered” war crimes, “aided or abetted” war crimes, or “failed, as civilian superiors or military commanders, to prevent their commission by subordinates, or to punish their subordinates,” actions that are explicitly criminalized by German law.

The complaint was filed under the Code of Crimes Against International Law (CCIL), enacted by Germany in compliance with the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court in 2002, which Germany ratified.

The CCIL provides for “universal jurisdiction” for war crimes, crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. It enables the German Federal Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute crimes constituting a violation of the CCIL, irrespective of the location of the defendant or plaintiff, the place where the crime was carried out, or the nationality of the persons involved.

Case Timeline

December 17, 2014
ECCHR lodges criminal complaints against former CIA head George Tenet, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the administration of former US President George W. Bush
December 17, 2014
ECCHR lodges criminal complaints against former CIA head George Tenet, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the administration of former US President George W. Bush
May 25, 2009
Human Rights Groups file a motion for reconsideration with the Appeals Court
May 25, 2009
Human Rights Groups file a motion for reconsideration with the Appeals Court
April 21, 2009
The Stuttgart Regional Appeals Court dismisses the appeal
April 21, 2009
The Stuttgart Regional Appeals Court dismisses the appeal
December 2008
The US Senate Armed Services Committee releases a bi-partisan report proving, beyond dispute, that Donald Rumsfeld was directly responsible for abusive interrogation techniques used abroad
December 2008
The US Senate Armed Services Committee releases a bi-partisan report proving, beyond dispute, that Donald Rumsfeld was directly responsible for abusive interrogation techniques used abroad
November 2007
CCR, FIDH, and RAV appeal the decision
April 27, 2007
Germany's Federal Prosecutor announces she will not proceed with an investigation
April 27, 2007
Germany's Federal Prosecutor announces she will not proceed with an investigation