Former Guantánamo Chief Summoned by French Court Over Torture Allegations

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Former Guantánamo Chief Summoned by French Court Over Torture Allegations

General Geoffrey Miller presided over the U.S. military prison in Cuba from 2002 to 2004, after then-President George Bush approved of 'enhanced interrogation' techniques including waterboarding

General Geoffrey Miller earned the nickname 'King of Guantanamo' for introducing waterboarding to the U.S. military prison in Cuba. (Photo: AFP)

A French judge has summoned the former chief of Guantánamo Bay, retired U.S. General Geoffrey Miller, to appear in court on March 1 to face allegations of torture against detainees.

Miller presided over the U.S. military prison in Cuba from 2002 to 2004, shortly after then-President George W. Bush approved the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation" tactics, including waterboarding, hooding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, removal of clothing, and exposure to extreme heat or cold.

Former prisoners of the camp for years have urged international courts to subpoena Miller over his role in the torture and mistreatment of detainees during his time as Guantánamo commander.

The investigation against Miller began after two French citizens, Nizar Sassi and Mourad Benchellali, who were detained at Guantánamo from 2001 to 2004 and 2005 respectively, lodged a criminal complaint against Miller in a French court. The Paris Court of Appeals approved their request last April.

William Bourdon, an attorney who represents some of the detainees in the case, told France 24 on Thursday that it was unlikely Miller would show up because "top U.S. civilian and military officials refuse to be held to account by [foreign] judges."

There's something in the air...

Still, U.S. and international legal advocacy groups praised the judge's decision. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, which have submitted expert reports (pdf) in the proceedings, said Friday that "Miller played a key role in the implementation of the U.S. torture program at Guantánamo prison. It is time he answers for it."

"We commend the French justice system for pursuing its investigation into torture at Guantánamo despite the unwillingness of both Bush and Obama administrations' to cooperate with the investigation," the groups said. "We urge the U.S. to make Miller available for questioning and let this judicial process run its course."

"The French nationals who endured torture at Guantánamo under Miller’s command, and have persisted with this case, deserve their day in court," the groups continued. "As long as the U.S. remains unwilling to fully investigate its torture program and prosecute its architects and senior implementers, justice will be pursued in courts and countries, like France, where it can be found."

Sassi and Benchellali said they were arbitrarily arrested in Pakistan in alleged connection with the September 11 attacks and sent to Guantánamo, where they say they were tortured.

In an interview with France 24 in April, Benchellali said he wanted "redress" for what he endured, stating, "I've been mistreated. I want those responsible to be called to account."

Miller has also been accused of encouraging abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where the general presided for several months between 2003 and 2004. In September 2003, he submitted a report to the U.S. Department of Defense suggesting that prison guards use abusive tactics to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation.

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