Global Policy Forum

By Stephen C. Wester

The Raw Story

August 4th, 2011

A US District Court has allowed a lawsuit by a former US contractor against ex- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield. The contractor alleges that he was imprisoned unjustly and tortured by the US military in Iraq. Though a number of similar cases have been filed against Rumsfield, many have been rejected on “claims of immunity.” The Justice Department has argued that Rumsfield cannot be sued personally for conduct in his capacity as Secretary of Defense, and that judges cannot review Presidential or Congressional wartime decisions. However, US District Judge James Gwin rejected these arguments, stating that US citizens are protected by the constitution at home and abroad. This judgment comes as a stark reminder to the US that its own officials cannot escape accountability for breaches of human rights.

A lawsuit against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, filed by an unnamed U.S. contractor who claims he was tortured by the military, will proceed to trial.

The decision made this week by U.S. District Judge James Gwin is especially important to civil liberties advocates, who’ve seen a number of torture suits against former U.S. officials shot down by claims of immunity.

In this case, originally filed in 2008, Judge Gwin considered a similar argument from the Obama administration: that a former official cannot be sued for their actions in any official capacity.

However, since the plaintiff in the matter is a U.S. citizen whose constitutional rights were allegedly trampled upon — and because Rumsfeld allegedly approved each individual harsh interrogation — the suit is being allowed to proceed.

The man, whose identity was withheld, is a translator in his 50s who helped U.S. Marines communicate with Iraqis. He claims he was abducted by U.S. military personnel in 2005 as he was due to return home from Iraq. Over the course of nine months he was allegedly beaten and interrogated about providing classified information to coalition enemies, then was released without explanation. He was never charged with a crime…Read more.