PARIS (AFP) - - French, US and German rights groups said Friday they had filed suit for "torture" against ex-US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, currently in Paris, for his role in the Iraq war and the US "war on terror".
Around 20 campaigners gave Rumsfeld a rowdy welcome as he arrived for a breakfast meeting in Paris, yelling "murderer", waving a banner and trying to push into the building, according to the organisers, a political magazine.
The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the French League for Human Rights (LDH), the US Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Germany's European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed the joint suit before a Paris prosecutor on Thursday.
They accuse Rumsfeld of being "personally responsible for authorising and ordering the carrying out of acts of torture" in the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, and US base in Guantanamo, Cuba, during his time as defence secretary from 2001 to 2006, according to lawyer Patrick Baudouin.
"From the moment Donald Rumsfeld sets foot on French territory, he falls within French jurisdiction with regard to the 1984 New York convention against torture," said Baudouin.
The Paris state prosecutor's office said late Friday it had asked the French foreign ministry for details on whether Rumsfeld was immune from prosecution and whether he was still in the country.
"France is under the obligation to investigate and prosecute Rumsfeld's accountability for crimes of torture in Guantanamo and Iraq," FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen said in a statement.
"France has no choice but to open an investigation if an alleged torturer is on its territory. ... We call on France to refuse to be a safe haven for criminals."
The rights groups notably cite three memorandums signed by Rumsfeld between October 2002 and April 2003 "legimitising the use of torture" including the "hooding" of detainees, sleep deprivation and the use of dogs.
Five previous torture suits have been filed against the former US defence chief: two in Germany, one in Argentina, one in Sweden and one in Spain, the FIDH statement said.
Rumsfeld's agenda during the rest of his stay in Paris was kept under wraps for security reasons.