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Schneider v. Kissinger

Memorandum Opinion, 30 Mar 2004, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, United States

In the aftermath of the 1970 Chilean presidential elections, General Rene Schneider was killed as several military officers attempted to kidnap him. His sons allege that Henry Kissinger, then National Security Advisor to president Nixon, knew of the plans to kidnap Schneider and did nothing to stop it. The Court did not allow the case to proceed, stating that the claim made by Schneider’s sons could not be viewed separately from the context of US foreign policy at that time and that the judge should not rule on this.  Questions regarding foreign policy, the Court reasoned, should remain strictly within the domain of politics. Also, the Court held that Kissinger had acted within the constraints of his position of National Security Adviser and that therefore the defendant should be the United States, not Kissinger personally. However, the Court held that the United States enjoyed immunity for the alleged crimes. Therefore, the case was dismissed.


Schneider v. Kissinger

Appeal from the United States District Court, 28 Jun 2005, United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, United States

In the aftermath of the 1970 Chilean presidential elections, General Rene Schneider was killed as several military officers attempted to kidnap him. His sons allege that Henry Kissinger, then National Security Advisor to president Nixon, knew of the plans to kidnap Schneider and did nothing to stop it. The Court did not allow the case to proceed, stating that the claim made by Schneider’s sons could not be viewed separately from the context of US foreign policy at that time and that the judge should not rule on this. Questions regarding foreign policy, the Court reasoned, should remain strictly within the domain of politics.

The Court of Appeals agreed, refusing to differentiate between this particular alleged decision and the general tendencies of foreign policy in 1970. It therefore confirmed the dismissal of the case, stating that the Constitution had provided Congress with sufficient instruments to check the Executive’s conduct of foreign policy. It should be left to politicians to answer political questions, the Court reasoned, not to judges. 


Gonzalez-Vera v. Kissinger

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 9 Jun 2006, United States Court of Appeal, District of Columbia, Unites States of America, United States

After the Chilean military staged a coup d’état in September 1973, elected President Salvador Allende was replaced with a military junta, chaired by Augusto Pinochet. During his time in office, widespread human rights violations were reported. In this case, the plaintiffs sought to establish the responsibility of the United States, more particularly former National Security Adviser and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, for these human rights violations. According to several victims and family of victims, the United States played an important role in the military coup, for example by funding and assisting the military.

The District Court had dismissed the claim on its merits, but the Court of Appeals held that the Court did not even have jurisdiction. Under US law, claims regarding strictly political questions, for example regarding foreign policy and defense, are barred. The Court held that this claim regarded measures taken to implement foreign policy and that a judge should not rule on this. Questions regarding foreign policy, the Court reasoned, should remain strictly within the domain of politics. 


Ferrini v. Germany

Sentenza , 11 Mar 2004, Supreme Court, Italy


Germany v. Mantelli

Ordinanza, 29 May 2008, Supreme Court of Cassation, Italy


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