|US President George W. Bush with Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld after Bush announced Rumsfeld's replacement on November 8,
2006. Civil rights groups filed a suit with German prosecutors on
Tuesday seeking war crimes charges against Rumsfeld for alleged
abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons.
Lawyers for inmates of
Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay asked German prosecutors
Tuesday to open a war crimes investigation of outgoing US Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld and other US officials for their alleged roles in abuse at the
Although the lawyers who filed the lawsuit acknowledged while there was
little chance of seeing Rumsfeld in a German jail, the point was simply to
increase the pressure on top
brass they say are culpable. German federal prosecutors
said they would examine the case.
"We are not expecting that Rumsfeld will appear in a court, but we are
hoping investigators will begin looking
into the case," said Wolfgang Kaleck, a German lawyer
involved in the suit.
The 220-page lawsuit, which also names 13 other US officials, was sent
to federal prosecutors under a German law that allows the prosecution of
war crimes regardless of where they were committed. It alleges that
Rumsfeld personally ordered and condoned torture.
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said US officials had not seen the
complaint, but said media reports suggested it was "frivolous."
"Abu Ghraib is something
that the US government has investigated very thoroughly," Whitman said,
noting more than a dozen probes as well as congressional hearings. "The
appropriate individuals have been held accountable."
There have been 11 convictions and about a dozen courts-martial in the
United States related to Abu Ghraib.
The suit is brought on behalf of 12 alleged torture victims - 11 Iraqis
held at Abu Ghraib and Mohamad al-Qahtani, a Saudi being held at the US
military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who has been identified by the US
as a would-be participant in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,
al-Qahtani would not crack under normal questioning, so Rumsfeld approved
harsher methods, according to the testimony before Congress.
After FBI agents raised concerns, military investigators began
reviewing the case and in July 2005 said they confirmed abusive and
degrading treatment that included forcing al-Qahtani to wear a bra, dance
with another man, stand naked in front of women, and behave like a dog.
Still, the Pentagon determined "no torture occurred."
German prosecutors already declined to investigate a more limited
lawsuit in 2005, arguing that it was up to the US to hold any inquiry and
that there were no indications US authorities or courts would refrain from
Since then, there have been "no efforts in the United States to go up
the chain of command - they've basically been given impunity from any
investigation or prosecution," said Michael Ratner, president of New
York's Center for Constitutional Rights, which is behind the litigation.
The attorneys think they have a better case this time, armed with
documents from 2005 congressional hearings on the al-Qahtani case. They
argue that Rumsfeld's resignation last week means prosecutors may be under
less political pressure to avoid the case.