In Accordance With the Law

BERLIN/DAMASCUS/GUANTANAMO (Own report) - In spite of evidence of official German complicity in cases of abduction and torture, the authorities are refusing to take the consequences. This pertains to the former Ministers Josef Fischer and Otto Schily as well as members of the current government, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Brigitte Zypries. During their periods in office, German citizens were kidnapped and taken abroad, where they were submitted to torture, and considered missing or murdered. German officials have either indirectly participated or abetted in the commission of these crimes. For example, a citizen of the city of Bremen has been tortured for the past four years in Guantanamo, with the knowledge of the German government, without the foreign ministry having him set free. "They had taken no action, and only referred us to the US authorities" responded the victim's mother, when questioned by The trail of the kidnapping by US officials of a citizen of Hamburg, leads to Damascus, where he was subsequently tortured. Several German agencies have inspected the results of his abduction at the site of the crime - without intervening. The teamwork that goes on between the German secret services and foreign torturers is also proven in the deportation case of Khaled el-Masri, from the city of Ulm. These cases along with others still being kept secret, raise the suspicion, that the presiding ministers responsible, could be charged with violation of the constitution. Charges were brought this past weekend against the Federal Prosecutor General. To avoid a crisis of state, the Merkel administration is striving to keep the cloak of secrecy over the background facts.

The Vice Chancellor, Franz Muentefering (SPD), announced last weekend, that an immediate public presentation of the facts would not be permitted by the officials. It is not clear "what really happened", he said, concerning the circumstances of the various kidnappings of German citizens and their ongoing torture known around the world.[1] Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble (CDU), warned against damaging the productive relationship between the German foreign intelligence service (BND) and the CIA, which is directly responsible for Human Rights crimes.[2] Neither Schaeuble nor Muenterfering called for an immediate release of the deported Germans nor addressed regrets to the families of the victims. No crisis units were convened for the implementation of the constitutional imperative, of protecting the life of the torture victim.

The Fischer Case

In response to questions posed by, the mother of the abducted Murat Kurnaz, from Bremen, confirmed that for several years, she has been staved off by the foreign ministry and has little hope of freeing her son. The 19 year old was captured during a trip abroad, without any apparent reason, in December 2001, and was taken to the US military base at Guantanamo (Cuba). There Kurnaz is enduring an endless torment, that is now approaching its fifth year. Kurnaz informed a US attorney that he was being subjected to sexual violence, asphyxiation torture and psychological terror.[3] Even though these facts have been presented in written form to the foreign ministry, the former foreign minister, Josef Fischer, explained that this case does not fall under his responsibilities. Mrs. Kurnaz, who has resided in Germany for the past 34 years, was told to consult the officials in Ankara, who can intervene on behalf of her son of Turkish origin. But in Turkey, the mother was told to consult the officials in Berlin, since Murat has had his home in Bremen since he was born. "Murat was born here, he grew up here and Bremen is his home" Mrs. Kurnaz told on December 11, 2005. "I don't understand, why the foreign ministry is doing this, why they don't help us and why they are letting Murat be tortured."

What Mrs. Kurnaz does not know is that she, the mother of a torture victim, is the only one being turned away. When it comes to the cooperation with the torturers, Fischer and his government coalition had no objections - they supplied Washington with information on Murat.

The Schily/Fischer Case

The double-cross, at the expense of the torture victim and in violation of elementary human rights, also pertains to how, the then presiding minister of the interior, fulfilled his duties. It was under Schily's supervision, that these operations of the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) were carried out. It has become known, that BKA officials traveled to a Syrian prison, in order to interrogate the German citizen, Haydar Zammar.[4] The conditions of his incarceration were known to the BKA or could have been known, if the office had been fulfilling its duties. Zammar was in Damascus, because also he had fallen victim to kidnappers and was handed over to the torture specialists of the Syrian state. Whether German offices furnished the groundwork for the deportation, is inconclusive. What is clear, is that officials of the BKA abandoned the kidnap victim to his torture and flew back from Damascus to Frankfurt, without having directly initiated Zammar's liberation. As also in the case of Murat Kurnaz, from Bremen, for four years the foreign ministry has been unable to establish a liberating contact to Haydar Zammar. The responsibility lies with the former foreign minister, Fischer, who sits next to Schily on the government bench in the hall of parliament. While Zammar was being tortured in an underground prison cell in Damascus, Fischer on several occasions was consorting - above ground - on visits to the city, in June 2003 and August 2004. Fischer should declare whether he sought contact with Haydar Zammar, whether this contact was refused, and why he had not remained, if the Syrian officials had rejected his request.

Also in need of an explanation are the parliamentarians Volker Ruehe (CDU) and Hans-Ulrich Klose (SPD). As chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Federal Parliament, they visited Damascus in September 2003 and in March 2004. If Ruehe and Klose had no idea that their compatriot, Zammar, needed to be liberated, this would constitute a serious omission on the part of Minister Schily. His ministry knew exactly, that and where Zammar was being tortured.

The Steinmeier/Schily Case

At the visit to interrogate the torture victim in Damascus, other government agencies, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) and the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) were also present. Both were under the political supervision of the then presiding Director of the Chancellery, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. One of these services has permanent representatives in Damascus, who maintain contact to the local officials of the torture system. Therefore the BND was already aware under which circumstances Haydar Zammar had been brought to Damascus and which tortures he had been submitted to, even before the torture visit had taken place. The operation of these German secret services in Damascus lasted 3 days and attained, therefore, a scale that necessitated a centralized direction and political supervision. The operative supervision was in the hands of the secret services coordinator, Ernst Uhrlau, which means that Frank-Walter Steinmeier was the highest authority. Steinmeier is the person, to whom, the political responsibility is to be attributed, for yielding a German citizen to specialists in torture, even if it could have deadly consequences.

Steinmeier, in the same function, supervised the German secret service activities against the German citizen Khaled el-Masri.[5] As secret service circles unambiguously admit, Mr. el-Masri was placed under surveillance in his hometown, Ulm, and the accumulated data was filed in dossiers. The analysis of this data furnished no evidence that would have justified prosecution of el-Masri. In spite of this, what is also admitted in the meantime, Steinmeier's subordinates passed the dossier with the details of their surveillance on to a foreign power. This serious infringement upon the right of the informational self-determination of a German citizen had dramatic consequences: Khaled el-Masris abduction and months of incarceration under torture were supplemented with documents linking him to third persons, under suspicion. The former director of the Chancellery may not have been aware of these details, before they were transmitted to him by el-Masri's attorney. At that point, at the very latest, in June 2004, Steinmeier was duty-bound to have called the operative level to account. But Ernst Uhrlau, Steinmeier's subordinate, and secret services coordinator, continued in his functions, and has even been promoted to the office, to which he, personally, contributed to its total failure. Uhrlau is the new director of the BND. In this capacity Uhrlau is supposed to debrief the parliamentary watchdog committees on eventual crimes, that his current agency may have committed under his former supervision. This should really shed much light on the whole affair.

The Zypries/Nehm Case

Those persons and their ministries, under suspicion of having committed multiple constitutional violations, are taking precautionary measures to push the blame onto others. For example, Steinmeier declares, that he left "no stone unturned," because the criminal prosecution administrations were immediately informed of el-Masri's kidnapping.[6] Largely unnoticed by the public, the Ministry of Justice is being set up to take the heat, as soon as Steinmeier's own defense begins to crumble. But the former and current Minister of Justice, Brigitte Zypries (SPD), is not only indirectly but even directly sharing the responsibility. According to charges filed last weekend, Zypries' subordinate, the Federal Public Prosecutor, Kay Nehm, is charged with tolerating and abetting torture. Nehm knew of the torture visits, carried out by the BKA in Damascus, did nothing to obtain the liberation of Haydar Zammar and in accordance §144 GVG he is responsible for the actions of his subordinates in the BKA.


Other charges have been repeatedly filed against suspects. Almost the entire leadership of the former government and some in the current government are being called to account. The political leadership has become uneasy. Leading commentators are unambiguously warning of the "free-for-all" that could develop if the revelations continue[7] - they are referring to a state crisis. To avoid this happening, the constitutional violations are going to be handled, at the level where they began, the executive levels of official power, a level sworn to secrecy. For all those not privy to the secrets, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the current foreign minister, has a ready answer: they were measures taken "in accordance with the law."

[1] "Das sind alles Spekulationen, die da laufen. Ich finde das nicht seriös, denn entweder weiß man, was Sache war, dann muss man keine Untersuchungsausschüsse mehr ankündigen oder in geheime Kontrollgremien gehen, dann kann man da offen drüber sprechen (...). Ich bin dafür, dass alle sich zurückhalten im Augenblick und abwarten, was denn das Ergebnis der Untersuchungen, der Gespräche im Kontrollgremium ist." Deutschlandfunk, Interview der Woche 11.12.2005
[2] "Ich sehe keinen Rechtsverstoß"; Der Tagesspiegel am Sonntag 11.12.2005
[3] Bernhard Docke et al.: Die illegale Inhaftierung von Murat Urnaz - Eine Chronologie. amnesty international (ai)
[4], [5] see also Where is Haydar Zammar?
[6] Merkel stellt Rice zur Rede; Berliner Zeitung, 07.12.2005
[7] Zwei Welten; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08.12.2005

see also Wer ist "Sam", der deutsche Foltergesandte?