Lawyers pursue Rumsfeld to court

A legal organization chaired by a Vancouver lawyer has filed a criminal complaint in Germany against Donald Rumsfeld, who recently announced his resignation as U.S. secretary of defence. Gail Davidson, founder and chair of Lawyers Against the War, told the Straight that her group is a co-complainant along with 10 other organizations, including the U.S.–based Center for Constitutional Rights.

The complaint alleges that the defendants were the architects and directors of a widespread system of torture used in prisons outside of the U.S. against people who were not U.S. citizens.

The complaint names 11 other defendants besides Rumsfeld, including former CIA director George Tenet and U.S. Attorney General and former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. In 2004, a German court threw out a similar complaint against Rumsfeld, concluding that there wasn’t sufficient evidence that the U.S. legal system wouldn’t address these allegations. Davidson said that U.S. authorities were investigating abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq when the 2004 case was tossed out.

“This complaint is significantly different because there is lots of new evidence since 2004 of torture,” Davidson said. “There is lots of evidence from the American Civil Liberties Union case [which went before the U.S. courts] that people have actually died. There is lots of evidence that the U.S. administration will not be prosecuting civil and military leaders of the U.S. administration. The Military Commissions Act, which is designed to give them immunity, is certainly one of the pieces of evidence.”

Earlier this year, the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed Davidson’s appeal concerning her attempt to have U.S. President George Bush prosecuted on seven torture-related criminal charges in Vancouver Provincial Court. Davidson laid the charges as a private prosecutor while Bush was on a state visit to Canada in 2004. Provincial court Judge William Kitchen later declared these charges a “nullity”, which meant they never existed in law.