Suit Filed Against Rumsfeld in Berlin

BERLIN -- Civil rights activists filed a suit Tuesday asking German prosecutors to open a war crimes investigation of outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a host of other officials for their alleged roles in abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay.

The 220-page suit was sent to federal prosecutors by U.S. and German lawyers under a German law that allows the prosecution of war crimes regardless of where they were committed. It alleges that Rumsfeld personally ordered and condoned torture.

"One of the goals has been to say a torturer is someone who cannot be given a safe haven," said Michael Ratner, the president of New York's Center for Constitutional Rights, which is behind the litigation.

"It sends a strong message that this is not acceptable."

The suit is brought on behalf of 12 alleged torture victims -- 11 Iraqis held at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi being held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who has been identified by the United States as a would-be participant in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Qahtani would not crack under normal questioning, so Rumsfeld approved harsher methods, according to testimony before U.S. Congress.

After FBI agents raised concerns, military investigators began reviewing the case and in July 2005 said they confirmed abusive and degrading treatment that included forcing Qahtani to wear a bra, dance with another man, stand naked in front of women and behave like a dog. Still, the Pentagon determined that "no torture occurred."

German prosecutors already declined to investigate a more limited suit in 2004, arguing that it was up to the United States to hold any inquiry and that there were no indications U.S. authorities or courts would refrain from doing so.

The attorneys involved think they have a better case this time, armed with documents from the 2005 congressional hearings on the Qahtani case. They argue that Rumsfeld's resignation last week means prosecutors may be under less political pressure to shun the case.

They also have former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq, as a witness on their behalf.

Karpinski, who was relieved of her command and demoted to colonel last year, said she did not know about prisoner abuse and asserted that higher-ups encouraged cruel treatment.