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Rumsfeld resigns as US Defense Secretary

[JURIST] President George W. Bush announced [transcript] Wednesday in the wake of Democratic Party successes in the US mid-term elections that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] is resigning from his position at the Defense Department. Bush said he plans to nominate Robert Gates [official profile] former Director of Central Intelligence for the CIA and current president of Texas A&M University, to succeed Rumsfeld. Gates' nomination must be approved by the Senate. AP has more.

Appointed Defense Secretary in Bush's first round of cabinet picks in 2001, the cerebral but sometimes abrasive Rumsfeld had previously been the youngest person to hold the top Pentagon post when he was named Defense Secretary in the Gerald Ford administration [profile] in 1975. In the Bush administration after 9/11 he presided over the establishment and operation of the US military prison for alleged terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], the existence of which he vigorously championed even in the face of growing international and domestic criticism [JURIST report]. Rumsfeld was also targeted by critics for his support of harsh interrogation policies for detainees; in its 2005 annual report [JURIST report], Amnesty International dubbed him a "high-level torture architect" [AI USA statement].

The Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal [JURIST news archive] also occurred on Rumsfeld's watch. Former Abu Ghraib commander Janis Karpinski said in 2005 that Rumsfeld personally signed a memorandum authorizing extreme interrogation techniques [JURIST report] used at the prison, including the use of dogs and stress positions. In November 2004 the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and four Iraqi citizens filed [JURIST report] a war crimes complaint [English translation, PDF] in Germany against Rumsfeld and seven other high-ranking US officials, seeking to hold them accountable under a German universal jurisdiction [Amnesty International backgrounder] law for acts of torture allegedly carried out at Abu Ghraib. The complaint was rejected [JURIST report] by a German prosecutor in February, but in the interim Rumsfeld cancelled a planned trip [JURIST report] to Germany to attend a security conference. A German court later upheld [JURIST report] the prosecutor's dismissal of the complaint.

The ACLU also filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] against Rumsfeld in March 2005 alleging he was directly responsible for the torture and abuse of detainees in US military custody. That lawsuit is still pending.

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