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.” This action was brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
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.