Does this decision/ruling mean that an American soldier can not safely cross German soil due to universal jurisdiction? Practically speaking given the international political dynamics I don't suppose they will realistically ever be so prosecuted or otherwise made so unwelcome but is there anything legally preventing it from happening?

How unfathomable would it be for a radical/renegade anti imperialist law student to rise through the ranks of the German prosecutorial or judiciary services and make a big wave by prosecuting American troops for their army's criminal adventures around the world along the lines of Baltasar Garzon in Spain?

Reference: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1386260/John-Demjanjuk-convicted-Nazi-death-camp-crimes.html

Update - This was the answer by user PMF that inspired my question:

"The court however ruled that being part of a "mass murder machine" is enough to be held responsible."



1 Answer 1


US troops deployed to Germany would be covered by the Status of Forces Agreement, which governs jurisdiction.

Your question also ignores the nature of the prosecution services in Germany, which do not allow a rogue junior official to file charges at a whim. You would have to assume that at least a state government, if not the federal government, actively pushes the case. (And the federal government could probably take the case away from any state which had such ideas.)

If you look for precedents of legal jeopardy, look at the case of Anwar Raslan, a Syrian official convicted of torture in Germany. It is also a closer parallel to the Pinochet case.

Finally, the principles underlying such prosecutions were established in Germany but not by Germany. I'm talking of the Nuremberg trials. If German courts were to find the US Army to be a criminal organization, then individual members would be at risk. But as a political scenario, that is absurd.

  • Thank you for the level headed and matter of fact answer that addresses science and substance without ideological kneejerk conniptions. Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 21:19
  • @JosephP., I am among those who consider your question low quality. Both the existence of the SOFA and the organization of the German prosecution offices are easy to google. And the US may have been slow to react to Abu Ghraib and My Lai, but it did react. Equating this with the conduct of the Wehrmacht and SS is distorting history.
    – o.m.
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 4:18
  • Thank you for your honesty. But I'm sorry but firstly I was not equating them in my question, but merely asking if the legal precedent equated them. Again I'm not even sure if Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 9:40
  • German law adheres to stare decisis which you haven't addressed so from the get go I don't even know if the core premise of my question is sound. Secondly the death toll of innocent civilians as well as righteous valiant defensive soldiers due to the US military's adventurism over the years must be comparable to that of the Mazi concentration camps etc. It's all just needless death. You write like Abu ghraib or my lai were anomalies but they are not. Regardless in the quoted phrasing of the German demjanjuk conviction ruling it is being part of a Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 9:40
  • 2
    @JosephP., stare decisis is weaker than in common law systems, but precedent is used to interpret the laws. More so if the precedent is from a higher court, less so if it comes from a different court at the same level. Usually novel situations or laws are considered "a bit untested" until a couple of Oberlandesgerichte have pubished verdict and the justification of he verdicts and the cases have run through their appeals.
    – o.m.
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 15:18

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