Glenn Greenwald had a post up a couple weeks ago decrying Germany for bringing charges against Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes. I think some points are required:
- If the German government wants to implicate itself in the prosecution of alleged war criminals, they are certainly able to do so. The fact that the crime did not take place on German soil is immaterial. Government routinely claim jurisdictions over crimes which take place outside not only their borders. No one disputed the power of the U.S. government to detain sanction-busters during the 1990s. And no one would today even raise and eyebrow at the Indonesian government apprehending a terrorist while he waited fro a connecting flight, halfway between the nation where he plotted attacks and the nation where he intended to carry them out. To let him get back on the plane due to the technicality that none of his crimes were conducted in Indonesia would be a travesty.
- The German government has as much interest in prosecuting those accused of crimes against humanity as does any other state. They have such an interest because they are members of humanity. That is in fact the point of the term “crime against humanity”—a crime which is so obscene as to make the entire species its victim. If one believes that overblown then one must cease using the term “crime against humanity.”
- Finally, and most importantly, the exact wording of the Geneva Convention does grant Germany the right to do what it is doing. It says point-blank, “any such persons” not “any of your citizens”.