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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 11:12 GMT
Rumsfeld in Iraq abuse complaint

By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld and others are named in a complaint filed in Germany
US constitutional rights lawyers say they have filed a criminal complaint against the US Defence Secretary.

Donald Rumsfeld and others are named in the complaint, lodged in Germany, over the abuses in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

It comes as the New York Times reports the Red Cross has told the Pentagon that US military methods at Guantanamo Bay have been "tantamount to torture".

The International Committee of the Red Cross criticised the psychological, and sometimes physical, coercion used.

The New York Times also said the ICRC found earlier this year that some doctors and medical workers helped plan interrogations of detainees "in a flagrant violation of medical ethics".

'Gruesome crimes'

These moves are further evidence that the Bush administration continues to be dogged by criticism of its policies on detention of prisoners in Iraq and its global war on terrorism.

The complaint has been filed with the German federal prosecutor by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

Four Iraqi citizens who, the group says, were the victims of "gruesome crimes" including severe beatings, hooding and sexual abuse, are jointly bringing the case.

The Center for Constitutional Rights says it has also called for an investigation into war crimes allegedly carried out by high-ranking US civilian and military officials.

27 military intelligence personnel accused
8 personnel knew of abuse but did not act
Senior commanders at fault
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As well as Donald Rumsfeld, those named in the complaint include the former CIA director, George Tenet, and the former senior US commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.

The group says it chose Germany because it has legislation allowing the prosecution of war crimes and human rights violations across national boundaries.

So far, the Pentagon's response has been that it has had eight major inquiries into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, with three more to come, and that criminal investigations continue.

But that is not good enough, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which essentially dismisses the investigations by the Pentagon and Congress as inadequate.

Vehement denial

What happens next will depend on the German Federal Prosecutor's office.

As regards the latest Guantanamo Bay allegations, neither the Pentagon nor the ICRC will confirm or deny the details of the New York Times report.

Prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
The Pentagon denies allegations of torture at Guantanamo Bay

Both find refuge in the policy of confidentiality, which they say is key both to their relationship and to the role of the ICRC around the world.

Instead, the ICRC says it still has serious misgivings about conditions at Guantanamo, while the Pentagon maintains its vehement denial of torture there.

It also denies that medical information about detainees has been improperly used to harm them.

One Pentagon spokesman said the ICRC had its own point of view on whether the detention policies at Guantanamo Bay amount to torture, but it was not shared by the Bush administration.

But the Pentagon response, essentially that the two sides agree to disagree, will not satisfy its critics, especially given the ICRC's reputation.

And despite numerous denials from the Pentagon, the reports, leaks, and allegations about treatment and mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay continue to swirl.

The Bush administration sees its facility there as an essential tool in its global war on terrorism.

But while the veil of secrecy over Guantanamo remains, it will also continue to be one of the most controversial.


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