Countries have no crime
'' The sovereignty of states should no longer be a protective shield for criminals ''
Durak: In the Bundestag, amendments to the Basic Law are being debated today, and possibly adopted. Article 16 paragraph 2 prohibits the extradition of Germans to foreign courts. That should be changed. Linked to this is the establishment of an international criminal court for the prosecution of war crimes and human rights crimes, decided by the UN in 1998. - Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Federal Minister of Justice, is now on the phone. Good Morning!
Däubler-Gmelin: Good morning Ms. Durak.
Durak: Why is this discussion now only in the final phase? Other countries have probably already ratified.
Däubler-Gmelin: Well, it takes 60 ratifications to create the International Criminal Court. A total of 22 states have now ratified; we will be the 23rd. That's why I pushed very hard on the pace. But clearly the parliamentary process needs its time, also and especially with the amendments to the Basic Law. After all, it is about the fact that the absolute ban on extraditing Germans that exists today is not provided with an exception for this international criminal court alone, but that this exception should also apply to the legal community of the European member states.
Durak: And is that a problem that only affects EU countries?
Däubler-Gmelin: No, that was in it. Formulations had to be considered. The consequence had to be checked. In my opinion, these considerations have now come to a very good conclusion, so that today we can take this - I think you can say that - very important step that will lead to a historic turning point.
Durak: Who was moving towards whom there?
Däubler-Gmelin: I think everyone did that. This is always the case with parliamentary processes. Ms. Durak, let me say one thing, however: the international criminal court, which the diplomatic conference decided two years ago, has never been in doubt among the major groups in the German Bundestag. We want that. We believe this court has to be so that human rights abusers, people who either commit or order genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, can no longer feel safe even when they are in a country that does she does not pursue. That will no longer work in the future. In addition, however, we also insisted very strongly that the statute for this international court should firstly include everyone and secondly be based on the rule of law. This is very important.
Durak: Back once more, Frau Däubler-Gmelin. What should the corresponding article in the Basic Law now read?
Däubler-Gmelin: Today the answer is that Germans cannot be extradited abroad. Now the exception is made, except for the international criminal court and the member states of the European Union, as far as constitutional principles are guaranteed. That is the case in both cases.
Durak: Will the EU countries not stop when it says that fundamental rights are being respected?
Däubler-Gmelin: No, I don't think so, simply because, in the event that they should stop, we wrote in the reasoning that this is a matter of course. The European Union is a legal community. So we repeat what we want and what goes without saying.
Durak: Why is it rephrased when it is taken for granted?
Däubler-Gmelin: Because, in fact, a large part of the German Bundestag attached great importance to being able to read it again. In terms of the clarification function, this corresponds to the task of a constitution, namely that one knows exactly that the protection applies and that it applies continuously. There are exceptions for these two areas that have been examined under the rule of law.
Durak: What about the USA?
Däubler-Gmelin: As you know, the United States has always accompanied this project of an international criminal court, which is supposed to help replace the law of the strong with the strength of the law, in an ambivalent manner. On the one hand, they were very much in favor of it. If you think of the basic idea, it comes from the end of the First World War or even earlier. Americans were very much there. Americans were also there in Tokyo, but also in Nuremberg. When, towards the end of the Cold War, it became even possible to actually set up such an international criminal court, then worries began as to whether a country like the United States might not give up a little bit of its sovereignty. We say we want this transfer of sovereignty to an international criminal court. The USA is still having a hard time with this. At the diplomatic conference two years ago, they were unable to get their point across. You are, of course, still trying to deal with one or the other exception. That is precisely why it is so important that Europe in particular, and that in Europe also the Federal Republic of Germany, say no, we want to ratify it that way.
Durak: So there will be the international criminal court without the US?
Däubler-Gmelin: Yes, Ms. Durak, you have to see that now. You are quite right, it would be very, very regrettable if the US continued to stand aside, although it has to be said that China is still doing that at the moment. The validity, which at the moment can now be foreseen as realistic, for at least half of the world's population is already a historical step forward. But of course we, with our good connections to the United States, keep saying that we would like the United States, this large and democratically structured society, to be a part of it. We promote it. But of course you shouldn't do it in such a way that the international court of justice would then no longer be a court, but could actually only judge if, for example, national states would agree to it. That will not do.
Durak: Why, Ms. Däubler-Gmelin, do you limit yourself in the amended article of the Basic Law to the Criminal Court and the EU countries, provided that fundamental rights are observed, if I quote it again correctly? Why don't you write directly the USA and China or all states, provided that fundamental rights are granted?
Däubler-Gmelin: No, that was out of the question because that would mean that we would now allow Germans to be extradited to courts in China or the United States. Let me give you a very practical reason. In a number of its member states, the United States has the option of the death penalty, which we completely exclude not only nationally through our Basic Law, but also through the European Convention on Human Rights. We don't do that. Seen from this point of view, there can be no extradition of Germans for these basic reasons. In this discussion about the international criminal court and its establishment or now also about the extension of extradition possibilities by law to the member states of the European Union, that was not at all up for discussion.
Durak: But the criminal court will somehow remain amputated without the USA and China?
Däubler-Gmelin: Yes of course. But you know, thank God it's not evening every day. The point is that one recalls the basic idea of this, as you rightly mentioned earlier, global and also so intended criminal court. The basic idea is: Nobody who either carries out war crimes, mass violations of human rights, genocide, crimes against humanity himself or orders them as a responsible statesman, so to speak, although one does not know whether one can even use this term of responsibility here, can feel more secure . The sovereignty of states must no longer be a protective shield for such criminals. Now, of course, it depends on making sure that it actually works. For that you need all states. It is the case that some who do not take this step to surrender their sovereignty rights easily are still holding back. Precisely for this reason, of course, our ratification or the ratification of the 60 has not yet achieved everything. But the basis that we can say that we would like to, we are campaigning for the United States to take part too, will be much better.
Durak: Herta Däubler-Gmelin, the Federal Minister of Justice. - Thank you very much for the conversation!
Link: Interview as RealAudio
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