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.
“The 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,” Gwin wrote, according to The Associated Press.
“The stakes in holding detainees at Camp Cropper may have been high, but one purpose of the constitutional limitations on interrogation techniques and conditions of confinement even domestically is to strike a balance between government objectives and individual rights even when the stakes are high.”
Rumsfeld, an outspoken and highly controversial secretary of defense who oversaw the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, left his post after President George W. Bush was reelected to a second term.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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