U.S. and European human rights groups filed a
lawsuit in France today charging former Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld with ordering and authorizing torture. The plaintiffs
include the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and
the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights. They
say Rumsfeld authorized interrogation techniques that led to
abuses at US-run prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
The complaint was filed with the Paris
prosecutor’s office as Rumsfeld arrived in France for a visit.
This is the fifth time Rumsfeld has been charged with direct
involvement in torture since 9/11. Michael Ratner is the
president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He joins me
in the firehouse studio. Jeanne Sulzer is a French attorney with
the International Federation of Human Rights. She joins me on
the line from Paris.
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JUAN GONZALEZ: US and European human
rights groups filed a lawsuit in France today charging
former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with ordering and
authorizing torture. The plaintiffs include the New
York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and the
Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights. They
say Rumsfeld authorized interrogation techniques that led to
abuses at US-run prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo.
The complaint was filed with the Paris
prosecutor’s office as Rumsfeld arrived in France for a
visit. This is the fifth time Rumsfeld has been charged with
direct involvement in torture since 9/11.
Michael Ratner is the president for the
Center for Constitutional Rights; he joins me in our
firehouse studio. Jeanne Sulzer is a French attorney with
the International Federation of Human Rights. She joins me
on the line from Paris. Welcome to both of you to
JEANNE SULZER: Good morning.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Jeanne, I’d like to
ask you, what happened this morning in France?
JEANNE SULZER: Well, the complaint
was filed yesterday before the Paris prosecutor around 5:00
p.m. Paris time. This morning, Rumsfeld was present at the
conference where he was scheduled. So what we are awaiting
now is signs from the prosecutor to know whether an
investigation has been opened or not. So what we needed here
in France was to make sure that Rumsfeld was actually
present on the French territory, which is the case. He’s
still here in Paris.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And now, was he
actually served with any papers there, or what happened when
he actually spoke?
JEANNE SULZER: Well, actually, the
information we have is that the complaint has not been
served on him. He has not been yet asked to account for the
accusations in the complaint. So, as of now, again, we are
waiting to see whether the prosecutor is still reviewing the
complaint, and hopefully he will not wait too long, because
our fears are that Rumsfeld will escape as soon as he can.
So now the big issue is the pressure on the prosecutor and,
of course, the higher-ups of the French authorities to take
a decision on the complaint. But France has a very clear
obligation to investigate and prosecute into this case under
the torture convention, as Rumsfeld is present on the French
JUAN GONZALEZ: But my understanding
is the place that he is speaking has a direct connection to
the US embassy, a direct physical connection?
JEANNE SULZER: What I can tell you is
that he came walking on the sidewalk this morning and went
to the conference, and he never reappeared. So there are
indications, it’s true, that the conference place is
actually linked to the US embassy.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Michael Ratner, this
is now the fifth case against Rumsfeld. Could you talk about
some of the others and the difference between this
particular one and the others that have been filed against
MICHAEL RATNER: Well, hello, Jeanne,
and congratulations. This was really a great effort by all
of us, but I know you, in particular. And I’m really excited
by it. I mean, the big difference here with --
JEANNE SULZER: Thank you. Fingers
MICHAEL RATNER: What? I’m sorry,
JEANNE SULZER: I said, “Thank you.
Fingers crossed now.” I hope France will take the
responsibility to move on.
MICHAEL RATNER: The big difference
with this case and the other cases is Rumsfeld is actually
in France. And when an alleged torturer goes into a country,
but particularly France, the obligation on the prosecutor to
begin an investigation is much stronger than in other cases
of so-called universal jurisdiction. We brought two cases in
Germany; one of those is still on appeal. There’s a case in
Argentina, and there’s a case in Sweden.
I think the point of all of this is to
really give Rumsfeld no place to hide. And the French case,
really, because he is there, is extraordinary. I mean, that
he was, in my -- in a sense, Juan, dumb enough to go to
France, knowing that they have this kind of jurisdiction, is
And, you know, I think one of the things
that people can do right now is to put pressure on the
French prosecutor to make sure he opens an investigation.
We’re going to have that fax number, etc., on our website,
which the Center has a new website now:
which in a couple of hours you can go to to fax materials.
So this is a very, very exciting effort, and I think we’re
going to really pin Rumsfeld in in this.
I have a question, Jeanne: if they somehow
don’t open the prosecution and he leaves, do they still have
an obligation to open the prosecution, even after he’s gone?
JEANNE SULZER: In theory, there is,
because what you need is, when the complaint is being filed,
that the person, the alleged person, is present on the
territory, and he was when the complaint was filed. So, yes,
but they could, of course, say that now that he is not
present on the territory anymore, there is no jurisdiction.
But, yes, they should -- actually, the investigation should
be opened now. If he escapes today, there is still basis for
the French jurisdiction.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Michael, what
does this particular case charge him with?
MICHAEL RATNER: Well, he’s charged
with torture. I mean, he’s charged that he basically was
both directly involved in torture, which is to say he wrote
memos, he set down the Rumsfeld techniques, which are all
those techniques we’ve talked about at Guantanamo and other
places, of chaining to the floor, stripping, hooding, dogs,
etc. So he’s charged with the memos, the techniques, and
actually personally involvement in torture, and particularly
in Mohamed Al-Kahtani’s case, who’s currently at Guantanamo
and who was tortured, as far as we understand, under his
We also have in this case Janis Karpinski,
who, as people may remember, was in charge of the prisons in
Iraq, was willing to be a witness against Donald Rumsfeld in
this case. So it’s a very strong case. This is not -- the
evidence here -- I don’t think there’s an issue, Juan. I
mean, this guy is a torturer-in-chief. And the only question
is whether the French, with their heavy obligation now to
either prosecute or extradite Rumsfeld to a place where he
can be prosecuted or should be, will actually comply with
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Jeanne Sulzer,
did his visit to France get much attention beforehand in the
JEANNE SULZER: No, it was very
confidential. His visit was very confidential. He was
invited by Foreign Policy, the newspaper, and it was
very confidential; not many people knew about it. So,
apparently he did not really want to make a big thing out of
his visit. Maybe he was afraid of something happening to
But I just want, too, to stress what Michael
just said. It’s an extremely strong case. And legally,
legally, there should be absolutely no obstacle for opening
an investigation. France has an obligation, and the
investigation should be opened, and he should be prosecuted.
Now, the issue is essentially a political issue now with the
MICHAEL RATNER: Jeanne, I have a
question: were you there when he actually showed up at the
conference, or were others there? And what happened in
JEANNE SULZER: I wasn’t there. I
arrived five minutes later, but I know that he arrived alone
or with just one person, walking quietly in the street,
which may indicate that he did not know about the complaint,
because after that he actually never really showed up again.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Michael, I’d like to
ask you on another issue, the Michael Mukasey nomination --
Patrick Leahy, the head of the Judiciary Committee, has said
he’s going to hold up a vote on him until he adequately
answers his position on whether waterboarding is torture,
constitutes torture. Your assessment of what’s going on
MICHAEL RATNER: Right, you know,
what’s going on there, as I’ve said on this program before,
is the Democrats have essentially caved in. Finally, Mukasey,
when he made an answer to the question of waterboarding, you
know, that “Well, I’m not sure what the technique is.” And
then he says, “Well, you know, I don’t really know. If it’s
torture, then, yes, I’m against it,” which is, you know, a
ridiculous comment. And even then, the Democrats, like
Leahy, you know, then have to say, “Well, if he’s not going
to say waterboarding is torture, you know, how can we really
go forward?” because that’s just too embarrassing for the
So the question is how he answers that
letter. He’ll probably evade it, much like he did there,
which it’s just to say, “I don’t really know how it’s being
done. It’s national security,” etc., which, as I said to you
when we started, that’s like saying to somebody, “Well, is
crucifixion torture?” and then they’re saying, “Well, it
depends on how it’s done. It’s classified. I don’t know how
it’s done.” So it’s an outrageous thing, and if he’s not
held up for this, Juan, you have to say -- when the New
York Times starts saying we have one party in the
country, you realize that this sadly may be the case.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to
thank you, Michael Ratner, for being with us, president of
the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Jeanne Sulzer, a
French attorney with the International Federation of Human
Rights, joining us on the phone from Paris.
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