The Corner

RUMSFELD’S GERMAN PROBLEM

One reader objected to my reference to the Alien Torts Act when discussing the German assertion of ‘universal jurisdiction’ over war crimes.

Reader: “The Alien Torts Act was passed in 1789, for cripes sake, and its restricted to civil damages. The German law is of much more recent vintage, concerns war crimes, and provides for extradition and imprisonment.  Given the EU legal framework invoking comity, that would essentially bar Rumsfeld from Europe from the remainder of his life.”

Me: True, but despite the passing of more than two centuries, the Alien Torts Act has not been repealed, and there are a number of other examples of the way that the US too applies its (criminal) laws extraterritorially as certain (currently detained) British internet gambling executives can testify.

My point was simply that in criticizing Germany for passing laws of ‘universal’ jurisdiction, we in the US should be aware that this country does on occasion do much the same thing. It’s a huge topic, but, briefly and for what it’s worth, my own view is that, with very limited exceptions, the reach of any country’s laws should (fair extradition rights aside) extend only as far as its borders. As for a possible German ’prosecution’ of Mr. Rumsfeld, I am, needless to say, opposed.

Meanwhile, another reader, who is highly critical of the President, Rumsfeld (and the general stance of NR) so far as the treatment of war-on-terror detainees is concerned, adds this: “I’m not remotely interested in the opinions of Germans – or any other foreigners – on the issue… I suppose my view means that my liberalism stops at the water’s edge, but whatever.”

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