Monday Aug 15, 201105:29 PM GMT
Court allows torture lawsuit against Rumsfeld
Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:31PM
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Two American men can go ahead with a civil lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, an appeals court said Monday, over allegations they were tortured in Iraq at the hands of the U.S. military.


Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel sued in federal court seeking damages from Rumsfeld and unnamed others over their roles in developing, authorizing and using harsh interrogation techniques in Iraq against them, thus violating their rights.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, based in Chicago, upheld a decision by a federal judge in Illinois to allow the lawsuit to proceed despite efforts by the former Bush and current Obama administration to get the case dismissed.



Earlier, Rumsfeld as well as the previous and present U.S. administrations had argued that the former Defense Secretary had immunity in the case as the alleged incidents occurred when he was in office and that American citizens cannot sue for rights violations occurring in war zones.


Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, who worked for a private security firm in the Middle East country, were allegedly beaten and punished for months in 1996 at Camp Cropper near Baghdad before being dumped at the airport without charge.


Among the methods of torture used against them during several weeks in military camps was sleep deprivation and a practice known as 'walling', in which subjects are blindfolded and walked into walls.


The lawsuit alleges Mr Rumsfeld personally participated in approving the methods for use by the U.S. military in Iraq, making him responsible, for what happened to Mr Vance and Mr Ertel.


The decision is the second this month in which U.S. judges have ruled Mr Rumsfeld may be sued by U.S. citizens who alleged torture in Iraq at the hands of U.S. troops.


Last week, a U.S. district judge in Washington ruled separately that a former American military contractor who also claims he was tortured in Iraq could sue Mr Rumsfeld.



The Obama administration has been fighting hard to keep such lawsuits from moving forward, making multiple arguments claiming that courts lack jurisdiction to rule on torture of Americans by the U.S. military and warning that the lawsuits were dangerous because they might affect the decisions of future U.S. officials who have to decide whether or not to order American citizens tortured for no reason.


The court's finding is consistent with other cases, where serious crimes have been alleged and government officials were found to have been involved in ordering, overseeing or condoning the unlawful activity.


In Rumsfeld's case, it is public knowledge that he helped former Pres. George W. Bush institute a program of "harsh interrogation" techniques and military detention without charge.


In July, HRW published a detailed report on the mistreatment of detainees under the administration of former President George W. Bush, which the group said presented more than sufficient evidence to warrant criminal investigations into the possible complicity of top U.S. officials like Rumsfeld, former Vice President Dick Cheney and George Tenet, then-director of the CIA.


The Interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. has resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody.



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