At a Glance
An action regarding the torture of French detainees at Guantánamo is pending. An appeal hearing was held on November 7, 2019.
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) has worked with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and French lawyers in two separate legal efforts. These actions were brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction. (See also Accountability for U.S. Torture: Spain; Accountability for U.S. Torture: Canada; Accountability for U.S. Torture: Germany; and Accountability for U.S. Torture: Switzerland; Katherine Gallagher, Universal Jurisdiction in Practice: Efforts to Hold Donald Rumsfeld and Other High-level United States Officials Accountable for Torture, Journal of International Criminal Justice (2009)).
THE FRENCH INVESTIGATION INTO U.S. TORTURE AT GUANTANAMO
There is 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.
The investigation is currently pending.
COMPLAINT AGAINST DONALD RUMSFIELD
CCR, along with ECCHR, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the French League for Human Rights, filed a 2007 complaint with the Paris Prosecutor 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 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.
CCR appealed the November 2007 dismissal of the Rumsfeld complaint 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.