November 23, 2007 / 5:29 PM / 10 years ago

French prosecutors throw out Rumsfeld torture case

PARIS (Reuters) - The Paris prosecutors’ office has dismissed a suit against Donald Rumsfeld accusing the former U.S. defense secretary of torture, human rights groups who brought the case said on Friday.

The plaintiffs, who included the French-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said Rumsfeld had authorized interrogation techniques that led to rights abuses.

The FIDH said it had received a letter from the prosecutors’ office ruling that Rumsfeld benefited from a “customary” immunity from prosecution granted to heads of state and government and foreign ministers, even after they left office.

It said in a statement it was “astonished at such a mistaken argument” and said customary immunity from prosecution did not exist under international law.

The suit was filed in October during a visit to France by Rumsfeld.

The Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq hit the headlines in April 2004 when details of physical abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers were made public, badly damaging the reputation of the U.S. military.

Former prisoners at the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay are suing Rumsfeld and 10 military commanders, alleging torture and violations of their religious rights during their detention there.

The CCR and FIDH filed suits in Germany in 2004 and 2006 in an attempt to have Rumsfeld tried for rights abuses.

Reporting by Thierry Leveque; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Andrew Dobbie

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