BERLIN - 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 detention centers.
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.
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. [Reuters]
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
Former US Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all US
military prisons in Iraq, said she would testify against her superiors because
only a handful of low-ranking soldiers have been convicted in the abuse at
Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.
Karpinski, who was relieved of her command and demoted to colonel last year,
said she wanted to "be a voice for my soldiers."
"They were tried and convicted in the world court before they ever set foot
in any courtroom ... while people who are far more culpable and responsible have
walked away blameless," Karpinski said during a presentation of the case in
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
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 doing so.
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.
In addition to Rumsfeld, the suit names Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,
former CIA director George Tenet, former commander of all US forces in Iraq Lt.
Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and eight others, alleging they either ordered, aided, or
failed to prevent war crimes.
The lawyers said the case could not be brought with the International
Criminal Court, because the United States is not a member, and could not be
pursued through the UN because the US has veto power.
Kaleck said the suit's backers would appeal if prosecutors refuse to take up
the case, and raised the prospect of further attempts in other European