Geoffrey D. Miller

27.07.2016 ( Last modified: 14.07.2020 )
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Geoffrey D. Miller was born on 8 October 1949 in Gallipolis, Ohio. He holds a Bachelor in History from Ohio State University and a Master of Science in Education Administration from the University of Southern California. Miller joined the US Army in 1972 and was deployed to Germany and Korea before returning to the United States and rising to the rank of Major General.

In November 2002, Miller received command of Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the Cuba-based US detention facilities known as Guantanamo Bay. Once in charge, he streamlined the interrogation process by combining the military police and intelligence units into a single task force. On 2 December 2002, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorised the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” on the high-value Guantanamo detainee Mohammed al Qahtani. Miller allegedly carried out these techniques against Qahtani himself, as well as being tasked with implementing and overseeing their use against other detainees.

From August to September 2003, Miller visited Abu Ghraib and other US military prisons in Iraq to advise on the interrogation of detainees. In May 2004, a month after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse had come to light, he was appointed deputy commanding general for detainee operations for the Multinational Forces in Iraq, and left Guantanamo. He was later accused by some, including his predecessor Janis Karpinski, of encouraging abusive tactics at Abu Ghraib, such as using attack dogs to intimidate detainees. Miller left his position as commanding general for detainee operations in November 2004.

In 2006, he appeared in a number of court-martial cases relating to Abu Ghraib, but invoked his right not to give potentially incriminating testimony under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution and Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. After allegedly being threatened with delayed retirement unless he agreed to testify by the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Miller testified in May 2006 that he had instructed the use of dogs only to maintain custody and control, not for the interrogation of detainees.

He retired from the US army on 31 July 2006, receiving a Distinguished Service Medal for his “innovative” service. Since 2006, Miller has been named in a number of legal complaints for his alleged role in the use of torture in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.


Legal Procedure

Since 2006, Miller has been named in a number of legal complaints for his alleged role in the use of torture in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.


On 14 November 2006, German lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor against several high-ranking US officials, Geoffrey Miller among them, for their alleged role in the commission of war crimes in the context of US counterterrorism operations. The complaint was brought by several organisations including the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Republican Attorneys’ Association (RAV), on behalf of 12 torture victims who had been imprisoned in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

In addition to Miller, the complaint named as defendants former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, former commander of Coalition Ground Forces in Iraq Ricardo Sánchez as well as his deputy commander Walter Wojdakowski, and Thomas Pappas, who was the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib at the time of the abuses, along with other senior US military and Department of Justice officials. It alleged that the defendants “ordered” war crimes, “aided or abetted” war crimes, or “failed, as civilian superiors or military commanders, to prevent their commission by subordinates, or to punish their subordinates”.

The complaint was brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction according to the Code of Crimes Against International Law, which enables the the German Federal Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute international crimes without requiring a location- or nationality-based connection to Germany.

On 27 April 2007, the Federal Prosecutor declined to prosecute, choosing to exercise her discretion under Sec. 153f of the StPO (Criminal Procedure Code), which allows for refusal of prosecution in respect of acts committed abroad, if a perpetrator is neither present in the country nor can be expected to be present. The Federal Prosecutor cited the probable lack of success of any German investigation on US territory, due to the lack of legal assistance from local authorities, as the main reason for dismissal.


On 27 April 2009, investigative proceedings were initiated in Madrid on behalf of four former Guantanamo detainees, Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Ikassrien Lahcen, Jamiel Abdul Latif Al Banna, and Omar Deghayes, for their alleged mistreatment in what preceeding judge Baltasar Garzón termed “an authorized and systematic plan of torture” in U.S. detention facilities.

On 26 January 2010, Judge Garzón held that Spain had jurisdiction over the case. While his finding was based primarily on the fact that all four plaintiffs had ties to the country, Garzón argued that jurisdiction would exist even in the absence of such a link, due to the universal nature of the crimes in question and Spain’s national and international obligations to combat them.

In May 2010, Judge Garzón was suspended from the case, which was reassigned to Judge Pablo Ruz.

On 4 January 2011, the CCR and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) submitted an expert opinion to the court, arguing that Miller bears individual criminal liability for the war crimes and acts of torture inflicted on detainees in U.S. custody at Guantanamo and in Iraq. Based on the evidence collected and analysed in the file, the CCR and ECCHR filed a request for Judge Ruz to subpoena Miller to testify before the court.

On 14 January 2012, Judge Ruz reaffirmed his predecessor’s finding of jurisdiction.

In March 2014, Spain amended its universal jurisdiction law, limiting its applicability to cases involving suspects who are Spanish citizens or are living in Spain. In spite of Judge Ruz’ initial finding allowing the case to proceed, the Spanish National Court dismissed the proceedings for lack of jurisdiction on 17 July 2015. An appeal, filed by the CCR five days later, was in turn dismissed on 17 November 2015. At the time of dismissal, the request for Miller’s subpoena was still pending.


In 2002, an investigation was opened in France into the alleged torture and other serious mistreatment of former Guantanamo detainees Nizar Sassi, Mourad Benchellali and Khaled Ben Mustapha, all of them French citizens. An initial finding of jurisdiction was confirmed in June 2005 by a French appeals court.

In January 2012, investigative judge Sophie Clement issued a formal request to the United States, asking for access to the Guantanamo detention camp, to relevant documents, as well as to all persons who had contact with the three victims during their detention, but received no response.

On 26 February 2014, the CCR and ECCHR submitted an expert opinion detailing Miller’s individual criminal responsibility for the torture of Guantanamo detainees and requested for him to be questioned. In April 2014, the request to subpoena Miller was denied by the investigating magistrate, due to a belief that the United States would refuse to make him available for questioning.

On 2 April 2015, the Chambre de l’instruction de la Cour d’appel de Paris (Paris appeals court) allowed plaintiffs’ appeal against the decision, instructing the lower court to summon Miller to explain his role in the abuses.

The investigative judges complied on 20 January 2016 by ordering Miller to appear before them on 1 March 2016, but the retired General dismissed the summons and failed to appear in court. At the end of June 2016, the investigation remained pending while counsel for the plaintiffs considered their next steps, including whether to seek an arrest warrant for Miller.

On 18 September 2017, the case was dismissed. The plaintis appealed the decision before the Investigation Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Paris.

On 7 November 2019, the Investigation Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Paris confirmed the appeal of the civil parties against the dismissal of the case ordered by the investigative judges.


Guantanamo Bay, officially the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), is a detention facility situated on the US naval base in Guantánamo, Cuba. The prison was established in January 2002 as part of the US-led “war on terror”, an international campaign of military operations based on legal and policy reforms introduced by the administration of President George W. Bush following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.

The detention centre’s purpose is to interrogate and prosecute alleged dangerous individuals, suspected of involvement with terrorist groups. Yet, of the 779 total detainees, the majority was found to be non-combatants with no proven affiliation to al-Qaeda, the Taliban or other recognised terrorist organisations.

The legal basis for the establishment of Guantanamo Bay lays on the Joint Resolution 23, adopted by the US Congress in September 2001. It authorised then-President Bush to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those allegedly responsible for the 9/11 attacks and to prevent future attacks.

Based on this national security justification, the Bush administration sought to exclude Guantanamo detainees from the protection of the US Constitution, arguing that it does not apply since the facility is located outside US territory. The US department of Defense (DOD) further argued that the Geneva Conventions was not applying to Guantanamo Bay, and fighters for non-State terrorist entities, such as al-Qaeda, should be considered as “unlawful enemy combatants” rather than prisoners of war for the purposes of the third Geneva Convention. Thus they were excluded from the protections provided by that treaty. Stripped of basic legal and procedural rights, prisoners are detained indefinitely without trial and charge or tried by military commission.

However, in its 28 June 2004 decision in the Hamdi v. Rumsfeld case, the US Supreme Court upheld the detainees’ right to challenge their “enemy combatant” status by means of a legal action called habeas corpus, which alleges unlawful detention or imprisonment. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the Bush administration created Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT), specialised military commissions aimed at determining the detainees’ status.

On 29 June 2006, in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, the Supreme Court found these procedures to be illegal under both federal military justice law and under the Geneva Conventions. The Court held that the Bush administration did not have the requisite authority to establish the CSR tribunals due to a lack of congressional authorisation.

In response to this decision, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), which provided a federal law basis for the commissions and relieved all US federal courts of the authority to hear a habeas corpus writ filed by any “alien detained as an enemy combatant”. Yet, in Boumediene v. Bush, which was decided on 12 June 2008, the Supreme Court declared the MCA provisions relating to habeas corpus jurisdiction illegal and affirmed the detainees’ right to such actions under the US Constitution.

In addition to the aforementioned legal issues, Guantanamo Bay has been the subject of persistent allegations of torture and mistreatment of detainees since its establishment.

In December 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorised the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, including stress positions, sleep deprivation, intimidation and humiliation, in US counterterrorism operations. Former Guantanamo commander Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, who was in control of the prison from 2002 to 2004, was allegedly tasked with implementing these techniques. Following an inspection of the facilities in June 2004, the ICRC submitted a confidential report to the US government, stating that these techniques amount to torture. After the report was leaked to the New York Times in November 2004, it was reported that the Bush administration had rejected the ICRC’s findings.

The allegations brought by detainees and human rights organisations were confirmed in 2009, when the US department of Justice (DOJ) released classified memoranda detailing the use of interrogation techniques. The so-called “Torture Memos”, drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee in August 2002, assert the legality of such methods. Shortly after taking office in January 2009, President Barack Obama affirmed that the techniques in question constituted torture and prohibited all government agencies from relying on the memos. However, despite widespread condemnation from both US government officials and the international community, as of July 2016 there have been no prosecutions of persons involved in the memos’ creation, nor any of the CIA or DOD personnel that are alleged to have carried out such acts of torture.

President Obama called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay and the transfer or release of all detainees. However, strong opposition from Congress, particularly to the transfer of inmates to prisons on US soil, continuously thwarted the Obama administration’s attempts to terminate operations. Other issues complicating the facility’s closure include the trials of the remaining detainees, particularly those involving evidence that was gathered through the use of torture.

At the end of December 2016, Guantanamo Bay remained operational, with 59 prisoners still being detained in the facilities. President Obama informed Congress of its plans to resettle 19 detainees by 20 January 2017.



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