Germany: Criminal Complaint against CIA Director Gina Haspel

USA – Torture – Gina Haspel

What responsibility does Gina Haspel, CIA director from May 2018 until January 2021, have for the torture of detainees in a secret prison (“black site”) in Thailand? There are no prospects of investigations in the United States. This is why ECCHR uses the principle of universal jurisdiction in Germany and filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Public Prosecutor (Generalbundesanwalt) calling for investigations into Haspel’s role in the torture of detainees in Thailand in 2002. The submissions against Haspel (from June 2017 and September 2018) are a follow-up to an earlier complaint on the US torture program filed in Germany by ECCHR in December 2014.

The criminal complaint is joined by Guantánamo detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was tortured at the CIA “black site” in Thailand while Haspel served as chief of base at the prison.


In late 2002 Gina Haspel was appointed Chief of Base of the CIA secret prison in Thailand known as “Cat’s Eye.” During this time she oversaw the torture of al-Nashiri and potentially also of other detainees. While at the Cat’s Eye prison, al-Nashiri was subjected to a program of “enhanced interrogation” which included waterboarding and other forms of torture.

Previously classified information about the role Gina Haspel played in torture in Thailand came to light when she was named CIA deputy director in February 2017, and again when she was appointed CIA director in May 2018 by President Donald Trump.


ECCHR is calling for an investigation into the US torture program as a whole and in particular into the members of the administration, the CIA and the military who bear responsibility for the program – including former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director George Tenet.

The criminal complaint in Germany is made possible by the German Code of Crimes under International Law, which is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction and allows German authorities to prosecute certain grave crimes such as torture regardless of where they were committed and regardless of whether German nationals were involved. 

On request, we can provide you with the written submissions concerning Gina Haspel.


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Q&A: Legal background of the criminal complaint against Gina Haspel filed in Germany.

ECCHR filed a dossier detailing Gina Haspel's suspected involvement in the crime of torture based on publicly available information. The dossier was submitted to the German Federal Public Prosecutor (Generalbundesanwalt) on 6 June 2017. A follow-up dossier was filed on 10 September 2018 containing new information that came to light after Gina Haspel's nomination as CIA Director in March 2018, including detailed cables describing the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in CIA detention in Thailand. Al-Nashiri, who is still in US detention in Guantánamo, joined the criminal complaint in Germany in September 2018.

The dossier was a follow-up submission to ECCHR's earlier criminal complaint (filed in December 2014 and expanded on in further submissions in July 2015 and June 2016) against the "architects of torture" during the Bush administration: former CIA Director George Tenet, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and several other senior US officials. The complaint concerns crimes committed as part of the US post-9/11 program of torture of detainees at various locations including Guantánamo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Thailand.

Perpetrators of torture and other crimes against international law should not enjoy impunity. ECCHR has worked for over a decade to ensure that the senior US officials responsible for establishing, running and providing legal cover for the illegal program of detainee torture face the legal consequences of their actions. This is key to upholding the long established prohibition on torture and preventing the use of torture by the US – or any other state – in the future. Given the scant prospects of any real accountability for these crimes in the US, ECCHR, supported by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, filed a criminal complaint in Germany seeking to trigger the opening of criminal investigation. This legal action also aims to ensure that German prosecutors gather evidence that can be used in criminal proceedings in other jurisdictions or by the International Criminal Court in the context of its potential investigation into crimes committed by US forces in connection with the conflict in Afghanistan.

President Trump's February 2017 decision to appoint Gina Haspel to serve as CIA Deputy Director led to new information coming to light about her involvement in the CIA's torture program. This related to her role in overseeing a secret prison in Thailand, including during a period in which at least one detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was subjected to torture, and her subsequent role in destroying video evidence of CIA torture.

ECCHR filed the dossier on Gina Haspel to ensure that she is included in the German Federal Public Prosecutor's consideration of the criminal responsibility borne by several individuals for the US torture program.

ECCHR's criminal complaint to the German Federal Public Prosecutor concerning the US torture program is based in part on the German Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch), which criminalizes war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Germany's Code of Crimes against International Law is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows for prosecutions for certain serious crimes even in countries with no direct link to the perpetrator, victim or the place where the crimes were committed. This aims to prevent impunity in situations in which the state where the crimes were committed, or the state of which the perpetrators/victims are nationals, is unable or unwilling to conduct prosecutions.  

The principle of universal jurisdiction for the crime of torture is also set out in the 1984 Convention against Torture which has been ratified by 163 states including Germany and which is implemented in German law. Articles 6 and 7 of the Convention oblige states parties to prosecute torture and to take steps towards prosecution – including taking the individual into custody – if an alleged perpetrator is present on their territory.

The criminal complaint submitted by ECCHR to German prosecutors on the US torture program in 2014 and the follow-up submissions, including the dossier on Gina Haspel, are under consideration by German prosecutors as part of a preliminary examination. This procedure is used to gather evidence for potential future investigations and prosecutions in Germany or in other jurisdictions. Considering this information allows prosecutors to respond swiftly if suspects travel outside the US.

ECCHR is also involved in legal proceedings in France, Belgium and Spain concerning criminal responsibility for the torture of detainees at Guantánamo. 

Documents (6)

Glossary (5)



A dossier is a collection of documents that can be submitted to a court or other authority.

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Topics (4)


Double standards

Decision makers in Western democracies often apply double standards when it comes to human rights. While the Global North will condemn and in some cases prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Global South, there is little appetite to examine the role played by Western politicians, military leaders and corporations in crimes against international law.

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