France summons ex-Guantanamo head in torture probe
A French court has summoned a former chief of US Guantanamo Bay prison to respond to allegations of torture of two French nationals previously detained at the notorious detention camp.
The court in the French capital Paris summoned Geoffrey Miller after French citizens Nizar Sassi and Mourad Benchellali filed a lawsuit against the former prison chief.
Sassi and Benchellali were arrested by US forces in Afghanistan before being taken to Guantanamo, where they were held from 2001 until 2004 and 2005, respectively. After their release, the two returned to France and filed a complaint with a French court, which began a probe into the case.
William Bourdon, the two former detainees’ lawyer, welcomed the move, saying, “The door has opened for civilian and military officials to be prosecuted over international crimes committed in Guantanamo,” adding, “This decision can only… lead to other leaders being summoned.”
In documents submitted to a French judge last year, legal representatives of Sassi and Benchellali accused Miller of “an authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment on persons deprived of their freedom without any charge and without the basic rights of any detainee.”
The documents also said Miller “bears individual criminal responsibility for the war crimes and acts of torture inflicted on detainees in US custody at Guantanamo.”
Miller, who was the chief of Guantanamo camp from 2002 and 2004 and was also in command of US notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, implemented torture tactics approved by then US president George W Bush’s administration, which termed it as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
The so-called techniques included placing detainees in stress positions, stripping them, holding them isolated for extended periods of time and exposing them to extreme heat and cold.
“These acts constitute torture and violate, at a minimum, the Geneva Convention’s prohibition on coercive interrogations,” the documents read.
According to the former detainees’ legal team, Miller’s command continued to use the so-called techniques, despite a ban of the most controversial ones in 2003 by then US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
The Guantanamo Bay detention center was set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center complex in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.
Washington says the prisoners are terror suspects, but has not pressed charges against most of them in any court.
The US military has been criticized for force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners who have been engaged in hunger strikes for years to protest their confinement.