Aide: Rumsfeld likely to attend conference

/ Source: The Associated Press

Hours after German prosecutors announced they would not investigate Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on war crimes allegations, a Rumsfeld aide said the defense chief probably would attend a prestigious European security conference in Munich on Saturday.

“It appears likely that Secretary Rumsfeld will attend the conference in Munich,” his chief spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, said in a statement issued while traveling with Rumsfeld in Nice, France, where he attended a NATO meeting Thursday. Di Rita said “scheduling issues” were being worked out.

The Munich conference attracts government, academic and military security experts from around Europe and beyond. The highlight usually is an address by the American secretary of defense. If Rumsfeld had not attended, his chief deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, likely would have substituted.

Direct link denied
Rumsfeld’s aides did not say there was a direct link between the German prosecutors’ announcement and Rumsfeld’s decision to attend the conference, but last week Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon that the legal matter was one factor in considering whether to attend.

Attorneys from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit with German federal prosecutors last November charging that U.S. officials, including Rumsfeld, are responsible for acts of torture against detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. That is the prison where U.S. soldiers were photographed abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi detainees.

Rumsfeld has maintained that the U.S. government has no policy to permit or encourage torture and that U.S. investigations of the Abu Ghraib abuses showed he was not directly responsible.

On Thursday, Germany’s federal prosecutors office said prime responsibility for investigating the matter lay with the country where the alleged acts were committed, the home country of the alleged perpetrators or an international court. Only if those authorities were unable or unwilling to intervene would a third country become involved, the prosecutors said.

“There are no indications that the U.S. authorities and courts have refrained or would refrain from taking penal steps related to the abuses cited in the criminal complaint,” the office said in a statement, adding it was up to the United States to determine how and when to investigate further.