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Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany

Crime Scene Germany


By Heribert Prantl

Translated By Ron Argentati

2 June 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer


Germany - Süddeutsche Zeitung - Original Article (German)

What are the ramifications of the U.S. flying unmanned killer drones from German soil? It would mean that either the Federal Republic of Germany is not really a sovereign state — which would truly be a shame — or that Germany is a willing accomplice in vengeance killings and human rights violations. That would make the German government legally culpable.

Such things as unmanned drones didn't even exist when the “Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany” was signed in Moscow back in 1990. But the treaty has a certain significance for the employment of deadly U.S. weapons when they are controlled from German soil, as we just recently discovered.

This 1990 treaty, also known as the Two Plus Four Agreement, is not just some insignificant scrap of paper; it deals with the treaty that ended the postwar era and paved the way for the reunification of Germany. This treaty between the four victorious occupying powers — France, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the U.S. — reaffirmed that only peace would henceforth emanate from German soil.

No one can claim that U.S. unmanned drones used in the extralegal killing of Islamists in Africa have contributed to peace. Nor can they deny that the U.S. military bases in Stuttgart-Möhringen (Kelley Barracks) and Ramstein Airbase from which the drones are flown and controlled are situated in Germany. How can that be reconciled with the treaty promise “that only peace will emanate from German soil”?

Forbidden and Unconstitutional

One might try to claim that it was the Germans and not the Americans who signed that treaty, thus absolving the U.S. from abiding by its terms. Or that the treaty establishes nothing obliging Germany to accede to any dubious actions undertaken by any of the four victorious powers. Maybe so — but the obligation arises from Article 26 of the German constitution itself which brands as unconstitutional: “acts with the potential to and undertaken with intent to disturb the peaceful relations between nations ....” The clause in the Moscow treaty stating that only peace may emanate from German soil is an internationalization of that obligation.

Article 102 of the constitution also contains the unequivocal statement, “Capital punishment is abolished.” Thus it is unconstitutional and forbidden to execute anyone on German soil or to order such an execution from Germany. It is also forbidden and unconstitutional to convict anyone without first holding a legal trial or hearing. These prohibitions apply directly to any use of governmental power in Germany. Further, no one is exempted from these conditions, not even if they happen to be American. There are no treaties granting the United States any quasi-governmental exceptions.

Germany has been a sovereign nation since the enactment of the Two Plus Four Agreement in 1990. The remnants of the occupation status were repealed by it and the validity of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement replaced it. This, however, did not exempt NATO forces from obeying German law while serving in Germany, nor did it nullify the power of the German legal system. The Foreign Office has repeatedly stated that German laws must also be obeyed by U.S. troops stationed in Germany. De jure, that may be the case, but de facto it is not. De facto, German sovereignty ends at the entrance to American military installations.

Not Funny, but for Real

That has happened repeatedly. The United States has used its bases in the illegal war against Saddam Hussein as Germany looked the other way and supported the Americans by allowing the U.S. to use German air space in its attacks on Iraq. It also used its German installations for the covert transportation of CIA prisoners to suspected torture facilities. The use of Germany as a location from which to launch unmanned killer drone strikes is just the icing on the cake.

What does it all mean? Either the German Federal Republic is in fact not a sovereign state and must therefore put up with human rights infractions on German soil — in which case, shame on us. And just as during the Cold War, the U.S. government in cooperation with other NATO nations went behind Germany's back and engaged in the prohibited storage of nuclear weapons in Germany. Or else Germany as a sovereign state is a willing accomplice in crimes and human rights violations. That makes the German government legally culpable in the commission of illegal acts. According to international law, every act of complicity in human rights violations constitutes a crime.

In so-called realpolitik terms, it may sound laughable that a German prosecutor could show up in Stuttgart-Möhringen at Kelley Barracks to grill U.S. soldiers assigned to U.S. Africa Command as possible criminal suspects. But it's not laughable, it's justifiable.



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