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Konrad Werner: Germany’s big fat hypocrites on CIA torture

Both Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Justice Minister Heiko Maas expressed their outrage about CIA torture last month. But as a new Amnesty International report shows, they're big fat hypocrites.

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Guantanamo Camp

Everyone was shocked last month when the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released (some of) its report on the CIA’s torture programme. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was particularly horrified. “What used to be considered right and was done in the fight against Islamist terrorism was unacceptable and a serious error,” he told the Bild. “Such a serious violation of our free, democratic values must not be repeated.”

It’s great of him to offer his condemnation, but seeing as he was Chief of the Chancellery from 1999 to 2005, which meant he helped coordinate Germany’s intelligence agencies, it might be good if he also explained what exactly the BND did to help the CIA. Because apparently no one else is going to. As a new Amnesty International report, all about Europe’s collusion in the CIA programme, showed this week, Germany has not exactly been falling over itself to reveal its own collusion with the CIA.

There was a three-year Bundestag inquiry into Germany’s role in rendition, particularly the case of the German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who spent three years in the custody of the Macedonian police and then the CIA being beaten and sodomized before the CIA admitted it was a mistake and he just happened to have the same name as someone they really wanted to beat and sodomize. In June 2009, the inquiry decided that no German government official had anything to do with it, but – almost simultaneously – the Constitutional Court ruled that the government had withheld information from the inquiry, violating the constitution. So, obviously, they had another inquiry, right? I mean, if the first one didn’t have all the information that seems only right. Not according to Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who in April 2010 turned down a request to re-open the case. So while the US deserves all kinds of blustering outrage over its torture programme from German politicians, at least their legislature looked into it and released (some of) the files. That’s more than Germany – or indeed any European country – has done yet about its own involvement. As Amnesty said: “Without European participation in the rendition and secret detention programmes, the USA would not have been able to execute these operations.”

And another thing: German Justice Minister Heiko Maas was also shocked about the US Senate report, and he also went to Bild to air his outrage: “The torture practises of the CIA are horrific. Such methods cannot be justified by anything,” he said. This was a “serious violation of our values under the rule-of-law”.

Well, in January 2007, a Munich court issued 13 arrest warrants for bodily harm and deprivation of liberty against CIA officials involved in el-Masri’s kidnapping and torture. Eight years later, the German government has still failed to request their extradition – this would be the Justice Ministry’s job. So it’s nice that Steinmeier and Maas are so bothered about human rights, but if they want to show that their words aren’t hollow turds of mendacious shit they could both do something about it tomorrow.