Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rumsfeld on Trial?

It was reported today in Deutsche Welle that a human rights group is suing Don Rumsfeld and 11 other US officials, including George and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.

The plaintiffs, a New York based group, say that since Congress has failed to properly investigate the crimes against humanity (i.e. the abuse of prisioners), they had no choice but to use Germany's Code of Crimes Against Interntional LAw, passed in 2002, to seek redress.

I doubt much will come from this. But it is worth noting that the world is changing as is International law. The courts of other nations are extending their jurisdiction to cover crimes under internatioanl law. This isn't the first time we have seen this. There was the Pinochet case back in 2000. Also Canada and Belgium, have passed "enabling" legislation to make it easier for their courts to try people accused of human rights crimes committed anywhere in the world. It is an interesting trend.

On one hand, I am pleased. On the other, it raises concerns. It is one thing if Belgium and Canada want to try people for crimes against internatioanl law, I'd feel a little differently if it were Iran. I have to mull this latest development over a bit more to refine my thinking.


Anonymous said...

As someone who has some experience in international law, let me add to what USWest has said. In the USA, we have the "alien tort act" which was passed in 1791  to give foreign countries some comfort that the USA would protect them. It gives to aliens, and ONLY aliens, the right to sue in US courts for torts committed in violation of international law. It's a civil statute, not criminal. So that is why CCR went to Europe. Also because US war crimes statutes make it hard to sue Rumsfeld (not to mention politics). This trend is actually not that new. The difference is that European rules about trials in absentia are more lax than those here. Under US rules, the German court more or less lacks jurisdiction over Rumsfeld because he isn't there.

The point I want to raise is that the issue of suits at law, both criminal and civil, for violations of international law is both very old and very complicated. It is moving in the direction of more such suits and trials, as USWest correctly notes, but it's really not such a departure from the past as one might suppose.

A big difference is that in the post-WWII era, the "Act of state" and sovereign immunity doctrines have eroded to the point where criminal prosecutions against state officials for acts taken in their official capacity is now firmly on the menu.

By the way, Iran already issues death sentences without trial (see Salman Rushdie) so I'd be happier if they started following at least minimal due process by pretending to have trials in absentia. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Thanks for expanding on this issue. I also think that the trend is partly due to a rise in the influence and importance of human rights groups. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

From a political point of view it is interesting that they filed the suit AFTER the Republican party suffered a massive electoral reversal in large part because of issues related to those mentioned in the suit.

Either the suit is designed to pressure the Democrats to be agressive or the people who filed the suit are profoundly ill informed about American politics.  

// posted by RBR