Without Consequences

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - In the course of the German cabinet reshuffle, human rights organizations are raising grave accusations against the German government. In a recent Human Rights Watch statement, an expert is demanding that EU governments "reveal the true extent of torture carried out on their soil", because of their assistance in CIA abductions and torture. The German government, in particular, has been thwarting efforts to solve the crimes. The accusations, made public just prior to German federal elections, are raised against the former and newly re-elected Chancellor, Angela Merkel, her future Foreign Minister, Westerwelle (FDP), and particularly against the still incumbent Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. As Head of the Federal Chancellery, Steinmeier was in charge of the German repressive organs' cooperation in torture carried out by the United States in the aftermath of 9/11/2001. The German government is maintaining its silence on its current cooperation with Washington, which has confirmed its continuation of the use of extralegal renditions even though without excessive torture. The Obama administration is therefore reverting to practices established under the Clinton Administration - without Germany's protest.

Prevent Repetition

Reed Brody, European Press Director of Human Rights Watch, is demanding that EU governments "reveal the true extent of torture carried out on their soil."[1] Reed Brody has written several reports on the abuse of prisoners by US repressive organs in their "war on terror". Brody recalls that already back in November 2006, the EU Parliament had confirmed that EU member states knew of the CIA's program of extralegal renditions and secrete prisons. The EU Council, in a report in 2007, confirmed the existence of torture centers in several European member countries, Brody writes. It is urgent that the EU creates "mechanisms" to prevent the repetition of these crimes. In his commentary that was published just before the German federal elections, Brody demands that those responsible be held accountable, "until then, the stain of torture will remain on European soil."


Brody raises serious accusations against the SPD/Green coalition government ruling in the aftermath of 9/11 and against the Big Coalition government that followed. In its November 2006 report, the EU Parliament had already identified the German government "as complicit in two renditions," writes Brody, and "all those ‘rendered' were subsequently tortured." This pertains not only to the SPD/Green coalition government in the aftermath of 9/11. The human rights expert is accusing, in addition, the subsequent CDU/CSU/SPD coalition government. "The German government" Brody insists,[2] "is refusing to seek the extradition of CIA agents for the rendition of Khaled el-Masri," and the inquiry by the Bundestag Commission with its majority of conservatives and social democrats "proved a whitewash." The German government's use of sealed dossiers and denying permission to testify has actually been ruled illegal by the German Constitutional Court.[3]

Excesses of Torture

The excesses of torture are documented in excerpts of reports published in the United States at the end of August. According to these reports the torturers threatened naked, blindfolded prisoners with drills and firearms and announced the intention of committing brutal sexual violence to female members of their families. "We will kill your children," an "interrogator" threatened. Also forcing the prisoners to maintain painful postures, "stress positions," the torturers scratched open the prisoner's skin with a scrub brush. Prisoners were subjected to mock executions as well as sleep-deprivation. They were knocked to the floor, slammed against the wall or doused for 15 minutes with cold water, while lying on a plastic sheet. Others had their carotid arteries throttled.[4] Not all prisoners survived these tortures.


Comparable revelations are yet to surface in Germany, even though those who are primarily responsible are still holding important political functions. August Hanning, for example, is still the States Secretary in the Interior Ministry, after having served as president of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) until November 2005. It was under his authority that the BND cooperated with the CIA, which was carrying out its operations in Europe. As the site of the CIA's main headquarters in Europe, Germany enjoys a rather exclusive position. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) But above all, the accusations now being repeated by Human Rights Watch pertains to the incumbent Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. During the first four years, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Steinmeier was Head of the Federal Chancellery and supervised the intelligence service coordinator - and incumbent - head of the BND, Ernst Uhrlau. Cooperation with the US intelligence services, which included several cases of torture cooperation, fell under Steinmeiers authority.[6] Steinmeier has never been prosecuted for these suspected criminal violations of human rights. On election evening, after his disastrous defeat as the SPD's candidate for chancellor, he declared himself chairman of the next SPD caucus in the German Federal parliament.

Renditions under Clinton

In the evaluation of these operations, it is not insignificant to keep in mind that experts all agree that though CIA torture was carried to extremes in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Washington's practice of illegal renditions was already established during the Clinton Administration. Back in the mid '90s, the CIA began imprisoning suspected terrorists abroad, who, after interrogations at US facilities, such as military bases, were held prisoner in third countries. Egypt became a particular case among these third countries. The Egyptian forces of repression would torture out the sought answers to the CIA's questions. Some of those abducted to Egypt, years before September 11, 2001, disappeared without a trace.[7] Some of these abductions had been carried out in Europe, for example in Croatia and in Albania, from where several suspected terrorists were kidnapped in the summer of 1998, one of whom was killed in the course of the kidnapping operation.[8]

Abductions Continue

As in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Germany did not protest against these illegal abductions. Even today, following the recent Obama administration's decision to continue the practice of "renditions" - to continue to kidnap suspects and imprison them abroad - there is no criticism forthcoming from the German government. Even though the CIA is supposed to abstain from using torture and return to their practice of the second half of the '90s, it is exactly this practice that demonstrated that abduction without torture is hardly imaginable. That the German government would take consequences terminating cooperation with the US services and other administrations planning to use torture in the future, is just as unimaginable. As the Human Rights Watch expert, Reed Brody, complained, since no consequences from the experience with the practice of torture in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, are being taken in Europe, a repeat of those excesses of the past cannot be excluded in the future.

Please read also Where is Haydar Zammar?, In Accordance With the Law, The Torturers, And Still Waiting, Lapse into Barbarism, Steinmeier and His Accomplices, Sinking Into Barbarism (II), Examined and Interrogated and Boycott through Silence.

[1], [2] Europe must come clean on its involvement in CIA torture; EuropeanVoice.com 24.09.2009
[3] see also Boycott through Silence
[4] see also Interrogation Techniques
[5] see also Steinmeier and His Accomplices and Boycott through Silence
[6] see also The Torturers, Oktober 2001, Deutsch-syrischer Herbst and Examined and Interrogated
[7] Jane Mayer: Outsourcing Torture. The secret history of America's "extraordinary rendition" program; The New Yorker 14.02.2005
[8] According to US press reports, the policy of renditions contributed to the escalation of terrorism. It has been pointed out that the murderous bombing attacks at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were carried out not long after abductions from Albania. A message from a terrorist organization, shortly preceding the attacks, swore "revenge." Jane Mayer: Outsourcing Torture. The secret history of America's "extraordinary rendition" program; The New Yorker 14.02.2005