International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)
Ligue des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen (LDH)
Complaint Filed Against Former Defense Secretary for Torture, Abuse at
Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib
October 26, 2007, Paris, France – 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 (LDH) 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.
“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
“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.
“That a criminal State representative should benefit from impunity is
always unacceptable. Because the USA is the super power of the beginning
of this century and, above all, because it is a democracy, the impunity
of Donald Rumsfeld is even more insufferable than that of a Hissène
Habré or a Radovan Karadzic”, underlined Jean-Pierre Dubois, LDH President.
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 U.S. 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 U.S. has refused to join the International Criminal
Court – it is the legal obligation of states such as France to take up
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 (1).
This will be the only case filed while he is in the country, which makes
the obligations to investigate and prosecute under international law
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
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.
Press contact :
+ 33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +
33 6 68 42 93 47
(1) See articles 689 para 1 and 2 of the french Code of Criminal
- Article 689-1)
In accordance with the international Conventions quoted in the
following articles, a person guilty of committing any of the offences
listed by these provisions outside the territory of the Republic and who
happens to be in France may be prosecuted and tried by French courts.
The provisions of the present article apply to attempts to commit these
offences, in every case where attempt is punishable.
- Article 689-2
For the implementation of the Convention against Torture and other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted in New York
on 10th December 1984, any person guilty of torture in the sense of
article 1 of the Convention may be prosecuted and tried in accordance
with the provisions of article 689-1.
Desk Officer for Asia
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
17, passage de la Main d’Or
75011 Paris – France
tel : + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / fax : + 33 1 43 55 18 80