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Thursday, August 4, 2011
District Judge Allows Army Veteran to Sue Rumsfeld for Torture
United States District Judge James Gwin has permitted an Army veteran to go forward with a federal suit in the District of Columbia against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for torture, the Seattle Times reports.
The veteran, whose name is undisclosed, was an employee of an American contracting company and translator for the U.S. Marine Corp in the Iraqi province of Anbar. As he was preparing to return home, the military suddenly arrested and imprisoned him for nine months, denying him representation by a lawyer, by the Marines, or by his employer, and without informing his family, who was expecting him home for annual leave. While in prison, he suffered abuse, including being kicked, threatened, and blindfolded during questioning. The Department of Justice accused him of helping give the enemy confidential information and helping the enemy to enter Iraq. However, after months of incarceration and interrogation, the government never formally charged him.
The man’s attorney, Mike Kanovitz, suspects the military of detaining his client to keep him from revealing an important connection he made with a sheik while gathering information in Iraq.
The lawsuit alleges that Secretary Rumsfeld himself made decisions about torture techniques on a case-by-case basis, including the decision to hold this veteran without access to the legal system. This case is one of the few in which a federal judge has allowed a suit against Rumsfeld personally to go forward. Last year, District Judge Wayne Andersen of the Northern District of Illinois held that torture victims Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel could personally sue Rumsfeld for approving the methods used on them. Suing a high-ranking government official has become difficult under the Supreme Court’s decision in Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd, which held that a suit against a high-ranking official may only proceed if that official was directly connected with a constitutional rights violation and fully knew that the action was such a violation.
In allowing the suit to proceed, Judge Gwin held that “[t]he court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad.”
Thus far, no high-ranking officials have been held accountable for torture. Click here to learn more about accountability for torture.