While in Paris, Rumsfeld
Is Charged with Torture …
"Legally speaking, few complaints are as irrefutable as this one. Then there is the political aspect: this touches on the Bush Administration ... But there should be impunity for no one."
-- Patrick Baudoin, French Lawyer Who Filed the Complaint
By Julien Martin
Translated by Andrew Levine
October 26, 2007
At three pages and with twenty-seven appendixes, the French complaint filed on Thursday by four human rights organizations against Donald Rumsfeld is detailed and damning. The former American Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 is accused of torture, in particular with respect to the prisoners of Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
This is the fifth complaint against the man considered one of the architects of the Iraq War. Two criminal complaints were dismissed in Germany (the second, however, will be appealed next week) and two more have been filed, one in Argentina and one in Sweden.
But for the first time, Donald Rumsfeld has been charged while in the country in which the complaint was filed. Arriving in Paris on Thursday, he gave a lecture on Friday morning without specifying the duration of his stay. Owing to the universal jurisdiction defined under the 1984 United Nations Convention Against Torture and enshrined in French law ten years later, his presence here forces France to act unless the country rejects the complaint.
In the French complaint, which Rue89 has obtained a copy of, the International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, the French League for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights, the Center for Constitutional Rights [of New York] and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights intend, "to take all preliminary measures to ensure that this person is detained or else kept on French territory."
Testimony from former detainees and American troops fills out the complaint, which lists the alleged interrogation methods: two-day-long periods of sleep deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, sexual humiliation, and religion-related threats, among others.
Most importantly, memos written by Donald Rumsfeld himself are included as appendixes. Some quotes mix the serious nature of the proposal with cynicism: "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours [for prisoners]?"
Patrick Baudoin, the lawyer who filed the complaint, organized a press conference in Paris on Friday to publicize his legal action. A sign that media pressure is stronger than political pressure:
"Legally speaking, few complaints are as irrefutable as this one. Then there is the political aspect: this touches on the Bush administration ... But there should be impunity for no one."
At the Court of First Instance in Paris, no more information was given out than necessary. Laurence Abgrall, the assistant prosecutor of France, told Rue89 that "the complaint should not run up against any major difficulties," but before being heard, "we're checking to make sure we have jurisdiction."
"The issue is whether or not Donald Rumsfeld has immunity. We are currently checking to see if he's still in France. But I can't tell you anything more about it."