8-10-2011By Melina Milazzo
Pennoyer Fellow, Law and Security Program
This week, two federal courts ruled that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld could be sued for allegations of torture and abuse of Americans held in U.S. custody in Iraq.
On Monday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that two U.S. citizens working for a private security company in Iraq could seek damages against Rumsfeld and others for their roles in developing and authorizing abusive interrogation techniques that the men allege were used against them after being taken into U.S. military custody in 2006. The men were never charged with a crime.
Similarly, a U.S. District Court in Washington ruled last week that Rumsfeld could be sued by an American translator in Iraq who alleges he was illegally detained and tortured by the U.S. military while working there. The veteran was held on suspicion that he had helped get classified information to enemy combatants. He has denied wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime.
In both these cases, Rumsfeld argued that he had qualified immunity and could not be sued for official conduct. Moreover, he argued that Congress and the President have the constitutional responsibility to review wartime decisions, not a judge.
But wartime does not give the U.S. government the ability to authorize wanton violence and abuse against persons it detainees. U.S. officials, including senior officials who authorized torture, bear responsibility for detainee mistreatment and should be held accountable. The integrity and security of our men and women in uniform are safeguarded when those who violate its core principles and values are held accountable.
See HRF’s Rumsfeld Torture Timeline»