War Crimes And Middle East Problems On The Table
By ANDREA M. JARACH and DAVID RISING (AP) – 32 minutes ago
MUNICH — A former U.S. attorney who prosecuted John Demjanjuk in the United States testified Wednesday that he felt the retired Ohio autoworker who is accused of being a Nazi guard lied about where he was during World War II.
Demjanjuk, who was deported from the U.S. to Germany in May 2009, is on trial for 28,060 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he was a guard at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp — charges he denies.
He claims he spent most of the rest of the war in Nazi camps for prisoners of war before joining the so-called Vlasov Army of anti-communist Soviet POWs and others. That army was formed to fight with the Germans against the advancing Soviets in the final months of the war.
But Norman Moscowitz, a former attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations, told the Munich state court that during Demjanjuk's 1981 denaturalization hearing, several inconsistencies in his testimony "contributed to my sense he was not telling the truth."
He said, for example, that Demjanjuk said he was held in a camp in Chelm, Poland, at a time when it had already been closed down; and that he said he had joined the Vlasov army at a time it hadn't yet been formed.
Demjanjuk's defense has questioned the value of Moscowitz's testimony, however, noting that a federal appeals panel in the U.S. chastised him and others involved in the American proceedings for withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense in the 1980s.
Demjanjuk had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 1981 after the Justice Department alleged he hid his past as the notorious Treblinka guard "Ivan the Terrible." He was extradited to Israel, where he was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1988, only to have the conviction overturned five years later as a case of mistaken identity.
In a 1993 review of the denaturalization hearing, which led to the extradition to Israel, a federal U.S. appeals panel concluded that the OSI engaged in "prosecutorial misconduct that seriously misled the court."
It said that Moscowitz and others failed to disclose exculpatory information — including statements of Ukrainian guards at Treblinka who "clearly identified" another man as "Ivan the Terrible" — in a timely fashion to the defense due to a "win at any cost" attitude.
Demjanjuk is now being tried on allegations he was a guard at Sobibor — a different Nazi death camp in occupied Poland.
Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr. told The Associated Press in an e-mail that Moscowitz should not be heard in the Munich case in view of the appeal panel's finding, even though the judges didn't suggest sanctions against him.
"For the Munich court to rely upon the poster boy of prosecutorial misconduct speaks loudly about the current prosecution's desperation to win at any cost," he said.
The trial session scheduled for Tuesday was canceled after Demjanjuk was hospitalized with low blood hemoglobin levels.
He received a transfusion and was back in court Wednesday, but lay in a bed wearing dark sunglasses, and showed no reaction to the testimony
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Michael Haas on March 10th, 2010
Will Donald Rumsfeld face accountability for his actions in authorizing torture? After resigning as Secretary of Defense in 2006, a warrant for his arrest was issued in Paris during October 2007 soon after he arrived in France to give a talk. But he sneaked out of the country to avoid handcuffs and incarceration, and he was secretly driven to Germany before flying back to the United States, clutching a passport that he may now have shredded to avoid similar incidents in the future.
Less well publicized was a lawsuit filed just after Rumsfeld left office in 2006, Vance v Rumsfeld, until Judge Wayne Anderson ruled in early March 2010 that the case will proceed to trial in a Chicago federal court. The case, in which two Americans seek unspecified damages, alleges the following offenses were committed against them:
- false arrest
- denial of property without due processunlawful detention
- unlawful search and seizure
- denial of right to counsel in interrogations – coerced statements
- denial of Sixth Amendment right to counsel
- denial of right to confront adverse witnesses
- denial of right to present witnesses and evidence, and to have exculpatory evidence disclosed
- unlawful conditions of detention
- denial of necessary medical care
What happened to the two Americans also occurred to thousands of Afghans, Iraqis, and others who were not protected by the American constitution. But the same offenses could be repackaged as war crimes, as noted below.
The circumstances of the allegations by the two men, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, provide more substantiation of the abuses of Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. The fate of the case will serve as precedent for foreigners to file suit on the same basis. The following are facts alleged in their lawsuit:
- Ertel and Vance were employed in Iraq during 2005 as private security contractors of Shield Group Security (SGS). In that capacity they observed SGS agents making payments to insurgent Iraqi sheikhs, who in turn bought weapons from SGS. While on home leave, Vance reported the payoffs to the Chicago FBI office, which in turn asked Vance to collect evidence on the matter. Ertel, his roommate, was unaware of Vance’s quest to identify illegal actions by SGS, but tendered his resignation due to his suspicions.
- Rather than allowing Ertel to leave SGS housing, on April 14, 2006, to secure employment elsewhere, SGS confiscated both of their access cards, effectively imprisoning them in the SGS compound. When they asked FBI officials in Iraq for advice on what to do, they were told to barricade themselves in their room until they could be rescued. Army personnel arrived, liberated Ertel and Vance, and took them to the American embassy, where their property was seized and they were questioned. They, of course, provided testimony about SGS activities during the interrogation.
- However, three hours after their questioning, they were arrested, handcuffed, blindfolded, earmuffed, and accused of supplying weapons to insurgents. When they arrived at Camp Prosperity, they were strip searched, placed in a cage, and then held in solitary confinement in separate cells. Two days later, they were shackled, blindfolded, and transferred to Camp Cropper, where they were also strip searched and placed in solitary confinement. They were fed a breakfast (bread, a powdered rink, with occasional fruit) and a lunch and dinner (chicken and rice).
- While at Camp Cropper, they were repeatedly interrogated for long hours by unidentified military personnel, who used coercive methods, mentally and physically, including “walling,” that is, walked into walls while blindfolded. They were denied the right to counsel. The fluorescent lights were turned on continuously. Heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor most of the time. To further deprive them of sleep, they were awakened at random times and ordered to stand in their cold cells (with temperatures in the 50s). They tried to sleep in 9×9-foot cells on worn 3” foam mats on concrete slabs. The suit alleges that they were tortured and otherwise treated in a manner authorized by Rumsfeld.
- On April 20, they were informed that they would appear before the Detainee Status Board on April 23 to determine their status, but on April 22 they learned instead that their status was identified as “security internees.” Given the right to appeal, on April 26 they appeared before the Board to appeal their cases, though they were denied the evidence seized from them to present in their defense, and they were not allowed to testify on each other’s behalf.
On May 7, Ertel was reclassified as an innocent civilian and released on May 17. Vance was held for two more months of continuous questioning, called his fiancé at the end of his first week after the hearing, and requested blankets and legal representation. He wrote ten letters to his fiancé, who contacted Senator Richard Durban and others, but the only letter she received through the courtesy of the Red Cross was dated July 17. Vance was finally released on July 20. Neither was charged with any crime.
After they returned to Illinois, they sought legal counsel, and they filed their case on December 18, 2006. Rumsfeld, a resident of Maryland, sought to have the venue of the cased moved from Chicago, but Judge Anderson denied the request on October 11, 2007. Rumsfeld also sought to have the case dismissed, but that motion was denied on March 5, 2010.
The larger significance of the case is that the two Americans and an unidentified third at Camp Cropper appear to have been treated in a manner similar to the other prisoners (except for appearing in person before a tribunal, a right denied to all Iraqis but Saddam Hussein).
Extrapolating from the way the Americans were treated to what the other Iraqis experienced as prisoners in an ongoing war, Rumsfeld is being judged in an American court for what a lawsuit filed by Iraqis at the same base might characterize as the following war crimes:
In short, Vance v Rumsfeld opens the Pandora’s Box that President George W. Bush had hoped would remain closed. Ongoing prosecutions in England filed by former prisoners at Guantánamo for torture will take note, as well those incarcerated in all American-run prisons abroad, past and present, during the Bush administration.