At a Glance
After the complaint against Rumsfeld was dismissed in November 2007, CCR appealed the decision to the General Prosecutor of Paris, who, on February 27, 2008, dismissed it, arguing that Rumsfeld was immune for acts he committed while in office. A separate action is pending regarding the torture of French detainees at Guantánamo.
One hundred and fifty-five countries, including France and the United States, are party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). Those countries have committed to investigating, prosecuting, and punishing torturers.
To this end, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), along with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and the French League for Human Rights, filed a complaint with the Paris Prosecutor charging former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with ordering and authorizing torture. This action was brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Rumsfeld was in Paris for a talk sponsored by Foreign Policy magazine, and after he learned of the complaint, left through a door connecting to the U.S. embassy to avoid journalists and human rights attorneys outside.
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 – 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 the case.
THE FRENCH INVESTIGATION INTO U.S. TORTURE AT GUANTANAMO
In addition, there has been an ongoing investigation in France into the torture and other serious mistreatment of three French citizens (Nizar Sassi, Mourad Benchellali, and Khaled Ben Mustapha) who were detained at Guantánamo. The jurisdiction of the instructing judge was confirmed by the appeals court in June 2005. In January 2012, the former investigating magistrate, Sophie Clement, issued a formal request, or “letter rogatory”, to the United States. According to news reports, the French investigative judge requested access to the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, to relevant documents as well as to all persons who had contact with the three victims during their detention there. The United States still has not replied. On February 26, 2014, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights submitted an expert report urging the French investigating magistrate to issue a subpoena for former Guantánamo commander Geoffrey Miller. The magistrate denied the request. On March 5, 2015, the court of appeals in Paris (Chambre de l’instruction de la Cour d’appel de Paris) heard an appeal by the plaintiffs requesting a reversal of the decision not to subpoena Miller. CCR and ECCHR submitted materials to assist the court of appeals in understanding Miller's role in the chain of command and key developments regarding interrogation practices at Guantánamo. On April 2, 2015, the appeals court ordered the lower court to summon Miller to explain his role in the abuse.
The investigation is currently pending.