Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, secret detention centres in Eastern Europe; waterboarding, sleep deprivation, electric shocks – these are all symbols of a barbaric system of torture. As part of the so-called war on terror, the CIA and US military engaged in a systematic programme of abduction, illegal detention and torture that was authorised at the highest levels.

Two years after the publication of the US Senate’s report on CIA interrogation techniques several organisations from the US and Europe sent a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch: The organisations asked Lynch to open a comprehensive investigation into the post 9/11 detention and interrogation programme in order to bring to justice those suspected of crimes under international law as well as US federal law.

For over ten years Wolfgang Kaleck and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) have turned to the law to oppose this system of violence and torture. Together with partner organisations and cooperating lawyers from the US and Europe, Kaleck and ECCHR persistently pursue legal action against this injustice, including through cases in Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland. These legal efforts are predominantly focused on the architects of the torture system: politicians, officials, intelligence agents, lawyers and senior military figures. The aim is to bring to justice those ultimately responsible for torture and rendition.

In the following cases ECCHR has filed legal actions, initiated criminal complaints, and/or supported investigations by submitting legal briefs and dossiers and providing witness assistance.

US torture programme: legal interventions filed with the German Federal Public Prosecutor since 2014

    This submission is a follow-up to a criminal complaint on the US torture programme filed by ECCHR with the German prosecutors on 17 December 2014. ECCHR is calling for an investigation into the US torture programme as a whole and all the members of the government, CIA and military who bear responsibility for the programme.

Directly after the publication, in December 2014, of the US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, ECCHR submitted a criminal complaint to the GBA – based on the principle of universal jurisdiction – regarding former CIA director George Tenet, former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the US government under George Bush (for download see below).

In July 2015, further information was filed regarding the CIA torture programme and in particular senior CIA agent Frances B. This was followed in summer 2016 by submissions offering witness testimony from former detainees.

ECCHR accuses Tenet, Rumsfeld and the other named suspects of the war crime of torture under Article 8 Paragraph 1(3) of the German Code of Crimes under International Law. That acts of torture occurred as part of the US programme was confirmed in the US Senate Intelligence Committee Report.

No impunity for torture in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib CIA secret prisons

"Those responsible for designing and implementing the torture system – politicians, officials, intelligence agents, lawyers and high-ranking army officials should be brought before a court, […] with investigations into Deputy Director Gina Haspel, Germany can help ensure that rendition, abuse and unlawful detention do not go unpunished."

Said Wolfgang Kaleck.

One section of the December 2014 US Senate report addresses the case of the German Khaled El Masri, who was abducted by CIA agents in 2004 in a case of mistaken identity and tortured in a secret detention camp in Afghanistan.

In July 2015, ECCHR filed a follow-up submission to the December 2014 criminal complaint containing information on the El Masri case and including allegations against senior CIA agent Frances B. She is said to have been involved in the decisions on the rendition and prolonged detention of El Masri and may thus be criminally liable for war crimes as well as unlawful detention and dangerous bodily injury. In the submission ECCHR also named witnesses who could give evidence on the overall US torture programme.

Germany must issue arrest warrants against the architects of the US torture programme

    In a further submission to the prosecutor in June 2016, ECCHR provided details of witnesses currently living in Germany who survived torture in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib and who are prepared to give statements and to assist investigations. ECCHR also detailed the links between the CIA torture programme and torture by the US military.

ECCHR is calling on the German Federal Public Prosecutor to investigate Haspel, Frances B., Tenet, Rumsfeld and the other accused, to secure evidence and to work towards issuing arrest warrants. This would allow German authorities to react swiftly should any of the suspects travel to Europe, instead of waiting until such a time to begin complex investigations and legal assessments.

Kaleck, together with the US Centre for Constitutional Rights, submitted criminal complaints against Tenet and Rumsfeld in Germany in 2004 and 2006 and against George Bush in Switzerland in 2011, as well as in Belgium, France and Spain concerning detention at Guantánamo.

CIA deputy Gina Haspel must face arrest on travelling to Europe

    ECCHR’s legal intervention filed with the German Federal Public Prosecutor is aimed at securing an arrest warrant for CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel. Haspel was appointed to the post by President Donald Trump in February 2017.

The information submitted to the GBA by ECCHR on 6 June 2017 documents Haspel’s role in the torture of detainees in 2002 at a secret CIA prison in Thailand. In the dossier, ECCHR argues that Haspel oversaw the daily torture of detainees at the black site in 2002 and failed to do anything to stop it.

"Those who commit, order or allow torture should be brought before a court – this is especially true for senior officials from powerful nations, the prosecutor must, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, open investigations, secure evidence and seek an arrest warrant. If the deputy director travels to Germany or Europe, she must be arrested."

Said Kaleck.


Taking legal actions against the US-torture Programme

European Centre for Constitutional
and Human Rights


Lifting the Hood
Full disclosure on the appalling Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (Documentary)