Reuters, May 27, 2004
Berlin says no sign of Kosovo torture by Germans
BERLIN, (Reuters) - Germany's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday it had no indications that German soldiers serving in Kosovo had engaged in torture after a newspaper reported that photographs showing abuses were circulating among troops.
Bild Zeitung, Germany's largest daily, said in a report issued on Wednesday ahead of publication that photographs showing German soldiers abusing prisoners were doing the rounds among soldiers serving with KFOR peacekeeping forces.
A spokesman said Defence Minister Peter Struck had ordered German commanders to conduct investigations among their troops after claims made by an individual who telephoned the ministry and who had apparently also contacted the media. He said the investigations had found no evidence of abuses and said the caller had since changed his original claim that he had the photographs himself to say an acquaintance had them.
"We believe there is nothing to it," the spokesman said. The spokesman said the investigation had been launched because of the sensitivity of the subject in the wake of photographs of U.S. troops abusing prisoners in Iraq rather than because of any concrete indications that abuses had taken place.
Germany, one of the most vocal opponents of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, has steered clear of directly criticising the United States for the conduct of its troops but the issue of torture is enormously sensitive after the atrocities of Nazism.
Struck said earlier this month that the extensive training in respect for human rights given to German soldiers made it unimaginable to him that they could abuse prisoners in the way shown in the photographs from Iraq.
The involvement of German ground troops in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans was only agreed after heavy controversy over the brutal record of Nazi forces in Yugoslavia during World War Two.