No politician or military officer from a Western state has ever sat on the defendants' bench at the International Criminal Court or gone on trial in a third state for international crimes. Despite many steps forwards, we still seem to be quite far from a truly international system of criminal justice for crimes against international law. With its legal interventions against the US, the UK and other Western democracies, ECCHR sends a clear message against double standards: even powerful perpetrators can face prosecution, and we will use all the means the law provides in order to pursue justice.
Double Standards & Democracies
Libya – Migration – Crimes against humanity
Severe deprivation of liberty in the Mediterranean Sea – The ICC must investigate
Migrants and refugees who are intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean and forcibly returned to Libyan detention centers are subjected to grave human rights abuses. Despite knowledge of these crimes, a number of EU actors have increased their cooperation with Libya. To push for an end to this impunity, we filed a communication to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in November 2022 against 24 individuals, including 16 high-level decision makers from EU member states, the EU Commission, the EU border management agency FRONTEX, the European External Action Service EESA, and the EU military mission EUNAVOR MED.
Afghanistan – Kunduz – German armed forces
Kunduz airstrike – German military goes unpunished
On 4 September 2009, two US fighter jets, acting on the orders of German Army Colonel Georg Klein, bombed a large group of people and two tanker trucks on a sandbar in the Kunduz River in Afghanistan. More than 100 people were killed or injured. ECCHR is assisting Abdul Hanan, a father who lost his two sons, aged eight and twelve, in the attack.
United Kingdom – Iraq – Torture
War crimes by UK forces in Iraq
After more than six years, the International Criminal Court closed its preliminary examination of war crimes by UK forces in Iraq. The decision from December 2020 reveals systematic failures of international justice and proves, once again, that powerful actors can get away with torture.
Drones – Yemen – Ramstein
Ramstein at court: Germany’s role in US drone strikes in Yemen
In the summer of 2012, two members of the bin Ali Jaber family were killed and many survivors traumatized in a drone attack in the Yemeni village of Khashamir. The US Ramstein Air Base in Germany played an important role in the attack. The German government’s response has been to deny any knowledge of or responsibility for the death of these and other civilians from US drone attacks.
Italy – Drones – Sigonella
Sicily air base: Italy’s involvement in US drone program
Sigonella Air Base in Sicily, Italy, is considered of strategic importance for US drone operations in North Africa. ECCHR has filed requests to access information regarding US drones located at Sigonella according to the Italian Freedom of Information Act and filed a criminal complaint against the air base commander.
USA – Guantánamo – France
France: Court must continue to pursue Guantánamo torture cases
After learning that Mourad Benchellali and Nizar Sassi were being detained by the US at Guantánamo detention center, their families filed a criminal complaint before French courts asking authorities to investigate torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention. That was in November 2002. Since then, the French judiciary has been conducting investigations into the US torture program and the high-ranking officials responsible for it.
USA – Torture – Gina Haspel
Germany: Criminal Complaint against CIA Director Gina Haspel
ECCHR has filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Public Prosecutor calling for investigations into Gina Haspel’s role in the torture of detainees at a CIA secret prison in Thailand in 2002. Haspel was appointed director of the CIA by President Donald Trump in May 2018.
USA – Guantánamo – Belgium
UN Committee against Torture refuses to examine Belgium’s role in torture of former Guantánamo detainee
Belgium failed to investigate and prevent torture in US detention camp Guantánamo. Former detainee and Belgian citizen Zemmouri together with ECCHR argues that Belgian officials were complicit in the abuse.
USA – Guantánamo – Spain
Torture in Guantánamo: Spain closes investigations into “Bush Six”
In March 2009, ECCHR partner lawyer Gonzalo Boye filed a criminal complaint against six former US officials of the Bush administration regarding their accountability for violations of international law, including war crimes and torture. The US officials became known as the “Bush Six.”
USA – Torture – Bush
Criminal complaint against Gerorge W Bush
As a signatory of the Convention against Torture, the US is obliged to prosecute for these crimes. Nevertheless, there is evidence concerning the torture program after 11 September 2001 with a particular focus on the liability of high ranking US officials, including former President Bush.
USA – Torture – Rumsfeld
The Rumsfeld torture cases
Between 2004 and 2007, three complaints were filed in Germany and in France against members of the US Government, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and members of the military forces in connection with war crimes, torture and other criminal acts in the military prisons of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.
USA – Torture – El Masri
Germany must enforce criminal prosecution of CIA agents and demand an apology and compensation for CIA victim El Masri
The case of Khaled El Masri is one of the best documented extraordinary renditions by the CIA. Several inquiry commissions took up this case and a number of lawsuits were filed before different national and regional courts.
USA – Guantánamo – El Haski
The El Haski case
Moroccan citizen El Haski was convicted to imprisonment in 2004 in Belgium for several offences committed with regard to an alleged terrorist group. At his conviction, witness testimony from Morocco was used which, according to El Haski, was procured by torture.
Drones – Pakistan – Germany
The case of Bünyamin E in Pakistan
ECCHR supported the case of the German victim of a drone strike in Pakistan, Bünyamin E. According to ECCHR’s examinations, the case raises a number of serious doubts as to the application and interpretation of the law and shows insufficient investigations.
Serbia – NATO – Varvarin
NATO airstrike on Varvarin bridge
The Varvarin court proceedings in Germany concern the bombing of a bridge in rural Serbia as part of the NATO Operation Allied Force during the Kosovo war. Since 1999, those affected by the attack have been seeking compensation from the Federal Republic of Germany.
USA – Torture – Maher Arar
ECCHR supports “extraordinary rendition” case
ECCHR sumbitted an amici curiae brief in order to support the compensation claim in the Arar case. Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was arrested and abducted by US officials in 2002 and brought to Syria. During his one-year detention he suffered torture and was imprisoned under inhumane conditions.
Spain – Franco dictatorship – Baltasar Garzón
Trial of Spanish judge Garzón
The Spanish judiciary brought charges against judge Garzón, who declared his court competent to undertake preliminary investigations into the enforced disappearance, torture and execution during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. Garzón was acquitted of the charges later-on. It remains doubtful whether Spain is willing to independently adress the past atrocities.
Italy – Double standards – Terrorism lists
Counterterrorism and human rights
For several years now, ECCHR has been working on socalled terrorism lists. The main focus of this work is to address the grave violation of basic constitutional and human rights that arises by identifying individuals and groups in such a process of listing.
Egypt – Arab Spring – Protests
ECCHR demands adequate support for injured Egyptian demonstrators
ECCHR has appealed to five UN special rapporteurs on behalf of two injured demonstrators who were shot by security forces during the Egyptian protests in spring 2011. ECCHR is calling for adequate support to be given to the men and their families.