Emboldened by his resignation last week, lawyers on Tuesday asked a German prosecutor to investigate Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on allegations of war crimes, stemming from the treatment of prisoners held in military jails in Iraq and Cuba.
The 220-page lawsuit, filed with the German federal prosecutor in Karlsruhe, names 11 other current and former American officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whom it claims either ordered the torture of prisoners or drafted laws that legitimated its use.
The suit, filed by civil-rights legal groups on behalf of 12 detainees – 11 Iraqis and a Saudi – asserts that they were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, withholding of food, and sexual humiliation.
“Even if we never put Rumsfeld on trial in a German court, he will be harassed and publicly stamped as a torturer,” said Wolfgang Kaleck, a Berlin attorney who filed the complaint, together with the Center for Constitutional Rights, an American group, and other legal organizations.
Kaleck acknowledged that Germany would be reluctant to prosecute top U.S. officials. But he described a protracted legal procedure, during which he claimed that Rumsfeld might encounter trouble traveling to Germany or other European Union countries. Lawyers, he said, were also prepared to file complaints in Spain, Belgium, Argentina, and other countries.