Raw Story & Center for Constitutional Rights – 2007-10-27 01:02:43
Rumsfeld Hit with Torture Lawsuit while Visiting Paris
PARIS (October 26, 2007) — Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s jaunt to France was interrupted today by an unscheduled itinerary item — he was slapped with a criminal complaint charging him with torture.
Rumsfeld, in Paris for a discussion sponsored by the magazine Foreign Policy, was by tracked down by representatives of a coalition of international human rights groups, who informed the architect of the US invasion of Iraq that they had submitted a torture suit against him in French court.
The filed documents allege that during his tenure, the former defense secretary “ordered and authorized” torture of detainees at both the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the US military’s detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The head of one of the groups responsible for bringing the charges, the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, told RAW STORY today by phone that the suit was a long time coming.
“We’ve been working on cornering Rumsfeld and getting him indicted somewhere going on three years now,” said the Center’s president, Michael Ratner. “Four days ago, we got confidential information he was going to be in France.”
Joined by activists, attorneys for the human rights groups caught up with Rumsfeld on his way to a breakfast meeting. “He was walking down the street with just one person,” said Ratner.
“Around 20 campaigners gave Rumsfeld a rowdy welcome…yelling ‘murderer,’ waving a banner and trying to push into the building,” reports AFP.
Ratner, who wasn’t personally at the scene, says his sources told him that the former defense secretary made some pre-scheduled remarks at the meeting before ducking through a door leading to the US Embassy.
According to Ratner, France has a legal responsibility under international law to prosecute Rumsfeld for torture abuses.
“If a torturer comes into your territory,” he said, “there’s an obligation to either prosecute the person or return him to a place where he will be prosecuted.”
The rights groups notably cite three memorandums signed by the defense secretary between October 2002 and April 2003 “legimitizing the use of torture” including the “hooding” of detainees, sleep deprivation and the use of dogs.
Although his group has been a part of previous attempts to bring charges against Rumsfeld, including two former tries in Germany, Ratner believes French court has the highest chance of success.
“There are Guantananamo detainees who were tortured that are living in France,” he said. “It gives French courts another reason to prosecute.”
Ratner says Europe is “getting very hot for Rumsfeld,” and suggests a French court could at least issue its version of a subpoena.
“We hope that this case will move forward,” he said, “especially as the US says it can continue to torture people.”
Other groups involved in the complaint include the International Federation of Human Rights, the French League for Human Rights and Germany’s European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
More details about the lawsuit are available at the website of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
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Complaint Filed Against Former Defense Secretary
For Torture, Abuse at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib
Center for Constitutional Rights
PARIS (October 26, 2007) — Today, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) along with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and the French League for Human Rights filed a complaint with the Paris Prosecutor before the “Court of First Instance” (Tribunal de Grande Instance) charging former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with ordering and authorizing torture. Rumsfeld was in Paris for a talk sponsored by Foreign Policy magazine, and left through a door connecting to the US embassy to avoid journalists and human rights attorneys outside.
“The filing of this French case against Rumsfeld demonstrates that we will not rest until those U.S. officials involved in the torture program are brought to justice. Rumsfeld must understand that he has no place to hide. A torturer is an enemy of all humankind,” said CCR President Michael Ratner.
France is under the obligation to investigate and prosecute Rumsfeld’s accountability for crimes of torture in Guantanamo and Iraq. France has no choice but to open an investigation if an alleged torturer is on its territory. I hope that the fight against impunity will not be sacrificed in the name of politics. We call on France to refuse to be a safe haven for criminals.” said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen.
We want to combat impunity and therefore demand a judicial investigation and a criminal prosecution wherever there is jurisdiction over the torture incidents,” said ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck.
The criminal complaint states that because of the failure of authorities in the United States and Iraq to launch any independent investigation into the responsibility of Rumsfeld and other high-level US officials for torture despite a documented paper trail and government memos implicating them in direct as well as command responsibility for torture – and because the US has refused to join the International Criminal Court — it is the legal obligation of states such as France to take up the case.
In this case, charges are brought under the 1984 Convention against Torture, ratified by both the United States and France, which has been used in France in previous torture cases.
French courts therefore have an obligation under the Convention against Torture to prosecute individuals responsible for acts of torture if they are present on French territory. This will be the only case filed while he is in the country, which makes the obligations to investigate and prosecute under international law extremely strong.
Rumsfeld’s presence on French territory gives French courts jurisdiction to prosecute him for having ordered and authorized torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
In addition, having resigned from his position of U.S. Secretary of Defense a year ago, Rumsfeld can no longer try to claim immunity as a head of state or government official. Nor can he claim immunity as former state official, as international law does not recognize such immunity in the case of international crimes including the crime of torture.
Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, former commander of Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, submitted written testimony to the Paris Prosecutor for the plaintiffs’ case on Rumsfeld’s responsibility for the abuse of detainees.
This is the fifth time Rumsfeld has been charged with direct involvement in torture stemming from his role in the Bush administration’s program of torture post-9/11.
Two previous criminal complaints were filed in Germany under its universal jurisdiction statute, which allows Germany to prosecute serious international crimes regardless of where they occurred or the nationality of the perpetrators or victims. One case was filed in fall 2004 by CCR, FIDH, and Berlin attorney Wolfgang Kaleck; that case was dismissed in February 2005 in response to official pressure from the U.S., in particular from the Pentagon.
The second case was filed in fall 2006 by the same groups as well as dozens of national and international human rights groups, Nobel Peace Prize winners and the United Nations former Special Rapporteur on Torture. The 2006 complaint was presented on behalf of 12 Iraqi citizens who had been held and abused in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and one Saudi citizen still held at Guantánamo. This case was dismissed in April 2007, and an appeal will be filed against this decision next week.
Two other cases were filed against Rumsfeld in Argentina in 2005 and in Sweden in 2007.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
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