criminal complaint against rumsfeld

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    Ties with Germany may be affected: Pentagon : Criminal complaint against Rumsfeld

    WASHINGTON, Dec 13: The Pentagon expressed concern on Monday over a criminal complaint filed in Germany against US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal , warning that "frivolous lawsuits" could affect the broader US-German relationship.

    The complaint was filed in Berlin on Nov 30 by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association on behalf of four Iraqis who were alleged to have been mistreated by US soldiers.

    Besides Mr Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet, Under secretary of Defence for intelligence Steven Cambone, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski and five other military officers who served in Iraq were named in the complaint, which seeks an investigation into their role in the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

    "Generally speaking, as is true anywhere, if these kinds of lawsuits take place with American servicemen in the cross-hairs, you bet it's something we take seriously," said Lawrence DiRita, the Pentagon's spokesman.

    "If you get an adventurous prosecutor who might want to seize onto one of these frivolous lawsuits, it could affect the broader relationship. I think that's probably safe to say," he said.

    Germany is home to some 70,000 US troops, many of whom have rotated into and out of Iraq from German bases. Gen Sanchez, the former US commander in Iraq, is stationed in Germany as commander of the army's Fifth Corps.

    The groups that filed the complaint said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity.

    It also makes military or civilian commanders who fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts liable. DiRita said he did not know whether the United States has raised specific concerns directly with the German government. But he said, "I think every government in the world, particularly a NATO ally, understands the potential effect on relations with the United States if these kinds of frivolous lawsuits were ever to see the light of day."

    United States clashed with Belgium last year over a similar law that allowed war crimes charges to be brought against retired General Tommy Franks, who led the US invasion of Iraq, as well as numerous other international figures.

    The 1993 law empowered Belgian courts to judge suspects accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, regardless of where the alleged acts were committed, or the nationality of the either accused or the victims.

    Donald Rumsfeld threatened to block funding for a new NATO headquarters in Belgium over the law, and said the United States was considering whether it could continue to send officials to meetings in Brussels as long as the law was in place.

    The Belgian parliament replaced the law with a watered down version in August last year and its high court threw out lawsuits against Franks, former president George Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
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