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Human Rights Groups File Torture Suit Against Rumsfeld

French, German and US human rights groups have filed a lawsuit in France accusing former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld of torture during the "war on terror."

Wearing orange suits and blindfolded, Guantanamo detainees kneel before a wire fence

Former Guantanamo detainees have described being tortured

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the French League for Human Rights (LDH), the US Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Germany's European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed the joint suit before a Paris prosecutor on Thursday.

In a statement posted on the FIDH website, the groups say that during his time as defense secretary, Rumsfeld authorized interrogation techniques that led to rights abuses in US-run detention centers at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, as well as elsewhere.

Headshot of Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld was the US Defense Secretary from 2001 to 2006

The rights groups notably cite three memorandums signed by Rumsfeld between October 2002 and April 2003 "legitimizing the use of torture" including the "hooding" of detainees, sleep deprivation and the use of dogs.

The group also has testimony from Janis Karpinski -- the one-time commander of US military prisons in Iraq -- to bolster its claims.

Images rocked the world

The Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq made headlines in April 2004 when details of the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers were leaked to the media.

Former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are suing Rumsfeld and 10 military commanders for alleged torture and violations of their religious rights during their detention there.

The abuse and humiliation at Abu Ghraib was captured in 100s of photos

The US denies any torture has taken place in its detention centers and has defended its interrogation techniques.

Rumsfeld in Paris

The plaintiffs argue in their filing that French courts have universal jurisdiction -- allowing them to try foreigners in cases that occurred abroad -- under the 1984 Convention Against Torture, which was been ratified by both the United States and France.

The group says Rumsfeld, who is in Paris for a talk sponsored by Foreign Policy magazine, should be arrested while he was in France.

"We will only stop once the American authorities involved in the torture program are brought to justice," CCR chief Michael Ratner said in a statement posted on the FIDH Web site.

"Donald Rumsfeld must understand that he has nowhere to hide. A torturer is an enemy of humanity," he added.

Previous cases filed

This is the sixth torture suit to be filed against the former US defense chief.

Two previous criminal complaints were filed in Germany under its universal jurisdiction statute, which allows Germany to prosecute serious international crimes regardless of where they occurred or the nationality of the perpetrators or victims.

One of these cases was dismissed in 2005, while a second case was rejected in April 2007. An appeal will be filed against this decision next week.

Three other cases have been filed against Rumsfeld in Argentina, Spain and Sweden.

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