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October 29, 2007, New York, Paris – Today, human rights groups filed an urgent appeal with two United Nations Special Rapporteurs because the failure of the French Prosecutor to act on a complaint filed against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for torture. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the French League for Human Rights (LDH) formally requested Leandro Despouy, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to intervene in the case filed the day before in Paris by the same groups.
Mr. Despouy and Mr. Nowak co-authored the February 2006 UN Report on Guantanamo which found that interrogation techniques authorized by the Department of Defense which Mr. Rumsfeld headed at the time, constituted torture and cruel treatment and were a direct violation of the Convention against Torture. In June 2007, in his annual report before the U.N. Human Rights Council, Mr. Despouy requested German authorities to act with the required independence in a similar lawsuit filed against Rumsfeld and others for torture and war crimes before Germany’s Federal Prosecutor.
On Thursday, October 25, 2007, a criminal complaint was filed with the Paris Prosecutor before the “Court of First Instance” charging former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with ordering and authorizing torture. Rumsfeld was in Paris on Friday morning for a talk sponsored by Foreign Policy magazine, and left through a door connecting to the U.S. embassy to avoid journalists and human rights attorneys outside.
Rumsfeld’s presence on French territory gives French courts jurisdiction to prosecute him for having ordered and authorized torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
Despite the fact that the plaintiffs’ attorney in Paris personally informed the Prosecutor in charge of the case a day in advance of Rumsfeld’s presence in Paris on Friday morning, no action was taken by the Prosecutor to serve Rumsfeld with a witness warrant or to prevent him from leaving the territory.
In response to this inaction, an urgent appeal was filed before the two Special Rapporteurs, in which the complainants argue that given the French Prosecutor’s inaction, and the serious risks of Mr. Rumsfeld leaving the territory before being served, Mr. Despouy and Mr. Nowak should request from the French judicial authorities that they act independently from political pressure, and in accordance with France’s obligations under the 1984 Convention against Torture, which is to detain, arrest and prosecute any individual suspected of torture and if they are present on French territory.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.