Donald Rumsfeld Torture Lawsuit Dismissed

By Andrew Lu on November 19, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Donald Rumsfeld cannot be personally sued in a torture lawsuit, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

Two American citizens sued the former Secretary of Defense over allegations that they were tortured by U.S. military forces in Iraq, reports Reuters.

However, the federal court found that Rumsfeld and others in the military's chain of command could not be held personally liable for any injuries.

Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel worked for a private security company in Iraq in 2006. They reported that their firm was engaging in illegal bribery and other corruption, and notified U.S. authorities.

However, the two whistleblowers were themselves taken into U.S. custody and allegedly subjected to harsh interrogations and physical and emotional abuse, reports Reuters.

Months later, the pair claim they were unceremoniously dropped off at the airport and never charged with a crime. They eventually sued Donald Rumsfeld and other military commanders, seeking damages for violations of their constitutional rights.

Last year, a three-judge panel in the Seventh Circuit allowed the case to proceed. However, the decision this month by a full panel of the same court overturned the three-judge panel by an 8-3 vote.

The majority opinion essentially found that the higher-ups in the chain of command cannot be personally liable to victims of alleged torture, writes Reuters. If people like Rumsfeld could be found personally liable, the court reasoned that individuals like the Attorney General could then arguably be held "personally liable to victims of (preventable) crime."

The Seventh Circuit's ruling is consistent with rulings in the Fourth Circuit and the District of Columbia Circuit, which have also rejected suits for damages against U.S. officials over allegations of torture, writes Reuters.

However, the concern with these federal court rulings is that perhaps nobody will be found legally responsible for the alleged torture of two Americans.

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