American and European rights groups filed a legal complaint in France accusing former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of responsibility for torture in Iraq and at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, the groups said Friday.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and two Paris-based groups, the International Federation of Human Rights and the League of Human Rights, said they filed the complaint with the Paris prosecutor's office as Rumsfeld arrived in France for a visit.
The groups say their complaint could go forward because people suspected of torture can be prosecuted in France if they are on French soil.
The complaint says Rumsfeld, in his former position as defense secretary, "authorized and ordered crimes of torture to be carried out ... as well as other war crimes."
Filed Thursday, the complaint cites various documents, including memos from Rumsfeld, internal reports and testimony from former U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski - the one-time commander of U.S. military prisons in Iraq - to bolster its claims. It asks the prosecutor to open an inquiry and take Rumsfeld into custody.
"We know that we can't get him into prison right now, but it would be great to make sure that he couldn't safely leave the U.S. anymore," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Ratner's group already filed a formal request in Germany to try to bring an investigation against Rumsfeld and other current and former Bush officials for either ordering, aiding or failing to prevent the torture.
German federal prosecutors rejected that request in April, saying it was up to the U.S. to hold any inquiry.
Ratner said his group had tried to take the case to European courts because "no one (in the United States), not even the Congress, is ready to investigate the torture program," and because the case could not be brought with the International Criminal Court, as the United States is not a member.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969