Thursday, August 11, 2011

Court upholds torture lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld

It is well-known that the administration of George W. Bush subjected thousands of individuals to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Rights groups around the world have urged the U.S. government to investigate the well-documented and shocking allegations of torture, and bring the perpetrators to justice. A U.S. court ruling reveals that it is possible to drag top ranking torture advocates like Donald Rumfeld, former U.S. Defense Secretary, to court.

On 8 August 2011, the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Donald Rumfeld could be held liable for acts of torture exacted against two U.S. citizens who were held without charge by U.S. military personnel in Iraq in 2006.

According to the court, two American civilians were allegedly detained and tortured in 2006 by U.S. military personnel in Camp Cropper, a U.S. military prison in Baghdad, Iraq. The plaintiffs, identified as Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, were allegedly subjected to enhanced "interrogation techniques," including sleep, food and water deprivation, and other forms of physical and psychological torture. They were held in solitary confinement in separate cells, without legal representation and "...each had a concrete slab for a bed..."  throughout the unlawful detention period.

Donald Vance was reportedly detained for three months and Nathan Ertel was held for six weeks. Both were released without charge.

The Court of Appeals termed the torture allegations - "extraordinary" - and upheld, among other things, the decision of a lower court to dismiss Rumsfeld's motion to kill the case.

The court affirmed that Secretary Rumsfeld could be held personally responsible for allegations of torture (see pages 14-30 of the judgement) and that he is not protected by "qualified immunity" (pages 30-42 of judgement).

The Appeals Court's decision comes less than one month after Human Rights Watch urged the Obama administration, in a detailed 107-page report, to investigate George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA Director George Tenet and of course, Donald Rumsfeld - for alleged torture.

It is interesting to note that some of the torture techniques allegedly used against Vance and Ertel are similar to torture techniques exposed by Human Rights Watch in its report.

The lawsuit brought against Donald Rumsfeld is a civil lawsuit and the former Defense Secretary could appeal the decision of the Chicago Court of Appeals.

There is overwhelming evidence of torture authorized by top officials in the Bush administration. The perpetrators are not above the law. They should be investigated and brought to justice.

The two victims of alleged torture by U.S. military personnel  filed a case against Rumfeld on 18 December 2006. It remains to be seen whether justice would take its course.

Watch the following video in which one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Rumsfeld speaks about his ordeal and quest for justice.

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