Charges Sought Against Rumsfeld
Over Prison Abuse
by Adam Zagorin
www.time.com/, November 10, 2006
A lawsuit in Germany will seek a criminal
prosecution of the outgoing Defense Secretary and other U.S. officials
for their alleged role in abuses at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo
Just days after his resignation, Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions
for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top
prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution
of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former
CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military
officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's
Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo
The plaintiffs in the case include 11
Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani,
a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the
so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant
in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani
underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally
approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence.
But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and
government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual
humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions,
sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one
of the witnesses who will testify on their behalf is former Brig.
Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military
prisons in Iraq. Karpinski - who the lawyers say will be in Germany
next week to publicly address her accusations in the case - has
issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing, which
says, in part: "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility
[for what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top
of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
A spokesperson for the Pentagon told TIME
there would be no comment since the case has not yet been filed.
Along with Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Tenet,
the other defendants in the case are Undersecretary of Defense
for Intelligence Stephen Cambone; former assistant attorney general
Jay Bybee; former deputy assisant attorney general John Yoo; General
Counsel for the Department of Defense William James Haynes II;
and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of
staff. Senior military officers named in the filing are General
Ricardo Sanchez, the former top Army official in Iraq; Gen. Geoffrey
Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo; senior Iraq commander,
Major General Walter Wojdakowski; and Col. Thomas Pappas, the
one-time head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib.
Germany was chosen for the court filing
because German law provides "universal jurisdiction"
allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses
that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed, a similar, but
narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also
sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry
response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset.
Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the
case a "a big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear
the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld
indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich,
where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany
disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German
prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there
was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal
with allegations in the complaint.
In bringing the new case, however, the
plaintiffs argue that circumstances have changed in two important
ways. Rumsfeld's resignation, they say, means that the former
Defense Secretary will lose the legal immunity usually accorded
high government officials. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that
the German prosecutor's reasoning for rejecting the previous case
- that U.S. authorities were dealing with the issue - has been
"The utter and complete failure of
U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level
involvement in the torture program could not be clearer,"
says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional
Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action
in Germany. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a
law passed by Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution
in the U.S. of those involved in detention and interrogation abuses
of foreigners held abroad in American custody going to back to
Sept. 11, 2001. As a result, Ratner contends, the legal arguments
underlying the German prosecutor's previous inaction no longer
Whatever the legal merits of the case,
it is the latest example of efforts in Western Europe by critics
of U.S. tactics in the war on terror to call those involved to
account in court. In Germany, investigations are under way in
parliament concerning cooperation between the CIA and German intelligence
on rendition - the kidnapping of suspected terrorists and their
removal to third countries for interrogation. Other legal inquiries
involving rendition are under way in both Italy and Spain.
U.S. officials have long feared that legal
proceedings against "war criminals" could be used to
settle political scores. In 1998, for example, former Chilean
dictator Augusto Pinochet - whose military coup was supported
by the Nixon administration - was arrested in the U.K. and held
for 16 months in an extradition battle led by a Spanish magistrate
seeking to charge him with war crimes. He was ultimately released
and returned to Chile. More recently, a Belgian court tried to
bring charges against then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
for alleged crimes against Palestinians.
For its part, the Bush Administration
has rejected adherence to the International Criminal Court (ICC)
on grounds that it could be used to unjustly prosecute U.S. officials.
The ICC is the first permanent tribunal established to prosecute
war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity.
War Crimes & Criminals