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Updated 11/17/2006

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—November 17, 2006

1. German prosecutor asked to investigate Rumsfeld for war crimes
2. Justice Department claims it can indefinitely hold immigrants suspected of terrorism
3. U.S. lifts ban on military training for Latin American countries
4. CIA acknowledges Bush signed documents approving interrogation techniques
5. U.N. committee urges adoption of treaty banning secret detentions
6. Congress passes bill equating animal-rights civil disobedience with terrorism

1. German prosecutor asked to investigate Rumsfeld for war crimes
On Nov. 14, 26 human and civil rights organizations filed a request for the German Federal Prosecutor to investigate whether outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. government officials can be charged with war crimes. The three main organizations presenting the claim, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Republican Attorneys’ Association (Germany), filed the suit on behalf of 11 Iraqis who were held at Abu Ghraib prison and one prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The groups claim the men were physically and psychologically abused as a direct result of a torture policy developed by Donald Rumsfeld and 12 others, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former CIA Director George Tenet. German law allows for “universal jurisdiction” for war crimes, meaning a person can be charged with war crimes in a German court regardless of the defendant’s nationality or where the crimes occurred. Former U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib when the torture there became public, is set to be the key witness should a prosecution proceed. [JURIST, 11/9/06; Center for Constitutional Rights: Background Brief, 11/14/06; Reuters, 11/14/06]

2. Justice Department claims it can indefinitely hold immigrants suspected of terrorism
The U.S. Justice Department is arguing that immigrants detained in the United States and labeled “enemy combatants” under the new Military Commissions Act cannot seek relief from U.S. courts. The government made the claim in a Nov. 13 motion to dismiss filed in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari citizen who was studying in the United States and is accused of being a sleeper agent for al-Qaeda. Al-Marri, who is being held in a military prison in South Carolina, is challenging the lawfulness of his detention; his lawyers claim he has the right to such a challenge because he was arrested and is being held within the United States. However, the Justice Department asserts that the Military Commissions Act removes court jurisdiction over non-citizen enemy combatants, regardless of whether they are detained within or outside of the United States. [JURIST, 11/14/06; AP, 11/14/06; background info: HRWT News Update, 10/20/06]

3. U.S. lifts ban on military training for Latin American countries
The Bush administration on Oct. 2 granted a waiver allowing the resumption of military training for 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries. The ban on training is part of a 2002 U.S. law restricting military aid to countries that refuse to promise immunity to any U.S. service member taken before the International Criminal Court on war-crimes charges. The United States has refused to become a party to the international court, which was established in 2002 to prosecute alleged perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The presidential waiver is thought to be motivated by concerns about the increasing number of leftist leaders being elected in Latin America, including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. [USA Today, 11/10/06; International Criminal Court background info: MISF]

4. CIA acknowledges Bush signed documents approving interrogation techniques
In a Nov. 10 letter to the American Civil Liberties Union, the CIA acknowledged the existence of two documents signed by President Bush authorizing specific interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects and authorizing secret CIA prisons overseas. The letter was written in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act suit. The CIA is refusing to declassify any part of the documents. Further emphasizing the Bush administration’s commitment to keeping interrogation techniques secret, it filed court documents in late October asking a federal judge to forbid CIA detainees from revealing what interrogation techniques were used on them, even to their lawyers. [Wash Post, 11/4/06; Wash Post, 11/14/06; NY Times, 11/14/06]

5. U.N. committee urges adoption of treaty banning secret detentions
The U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances announced on Nov. 3 that it was urging the General Assembly to adopt the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons Against Enforced Disappearances. The convention requires signatory governments to criminalize and punish enforced disappearances, including secret detentions. The U.S. government has stated its support for the goals of the treaty, but said it did not recognize any legal obligation to fulfill them. France officially introduced the treaty to the U.N. General Assembly on Nov. 2. [UN press release, 11/3/06; Int Herald Tribune/AP, 11/3/06]

6. Congress passes bill equating animal-rights civil disobedience with terrorism
On Nov. 13 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a bill criminalizing actions by animal rights activists that lead to economic losses on the part of scientific researchers using animals. The bill, which was already passed by the Senate, expands the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which defined harassment against animal researchers as terrorism. The language of the new bill, which President Bush is expected to sign, implies that civil disobedience against animal research facilities can be prosecuted as terrorism, since it outlaws "non-violent physical obstruction" if it causes a company to lose profits. [New Standard, 11/15/06; The Scientist (UK), 11/16/06]


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