German court: No immunity for foreign officials’ war crimes

January 28, 2021 GMT

BERLIN (AP) — A German federal court ruled Thursday that investigators in the country can continue to pursue war crimes committed by foreign officials, rejecting the idea that a former Afghan army officer was entitled to immunity on account of his official position.

The Federal Court of Justice considered a verdict handed down by judges in Munich in 2019, in which the defendant was convicted over his actions as a lieutenant in the Afghan army.

The man was convicted of a war crime and bodily harm, among other charges, for using threats and force during the questioning of three prisoners and ordering the corpse of a Taliban commander to be hanged on a barricade as a “trophy.” He was given a two-year suspended sentence.


The federal court rejected the man’s appeal and ruled that he was also guilty of torture. It sent the case back to the Munich court to decide on a new sentence.

It said he was not entitled to be exempted from prosecution under the “immunity of a state official.”

“Above and beyond the individual case, the decision means that the pursuit of violations of international law by German authorities and courts in cases such as the present one continues to be legally possible,” the Federal Court of Justice said in a statement.

Two former members of Syria’s secret police are currently on trial in the German city of Koblenz, accused of crimes against humanity for their role in a government-run detention center where thousands of Syrian opposition protesters were tortured.

That trial has been described as a pivotal moment in the effort to bring Syrian officials accused of crimes to justice.