A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive] can be sued by a former US military contractor who claims he was tortured while imprisoned in Iraq. The man, whose identity remains concealed and who worked in Iraq as an intelligence officer, says [AP report] the US military accused him of passing information to the enemy and abducted and tortured him without formally charging him with a crime under orders from Rumsfeld. Upon release and return to the US, the former intelligence officer filed a suit demanding compensation for property lost and rights violated. Rumsfeld sought to have the case dismissed on grounds of vagueness and separation of powers and for protection of sensitive intelligence. However, Judge James S. Gwin held:
... [there is] 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....In light of law declaring unconstitutional conduct or conditions of confinement that shock the conscience, as well as clearly established law recognizing constitutional protections against certain government action for United States citizens abroad, the Court finds that Doe has set forth facts that if true could show the violation of a clearly established constitutional right.This is the second time Rumsfeld, currently represented by the Justice Department, has been allowed to be sued personally in a torture case. The other suit, which Rumsfeld is now appealing, was allowed last year [JURIST report].
The last several years has seen a rise in the number of suits brought against Bush Administration officials. Earlier this year, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] upheld the dismissal [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] of a torture suit against Rumsfeld brought by four Afghan and five Iraqi citizens alleging they were illegally detained and tortured. Also earlier this year, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd [Cornell LII Backgrounder] that a witness in a terror investigation cannot challenge the constitutionality of an objectively reasonable arrest pursuant to a validly obtained warrant even if the government did not call or had no intention of calling the witness for trial. Several human rights groups have urged investigations into alleged detainee abuses authorized by the Bush administration. In February, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Human Rights [advocacy websites] urged [JURIST report] the signatory states of the UN Convention Against Torture [text] to pursue criminal charges [press release] against Bush. Other calls to investigate the criminal culpability of Bush and officials in his administration have been consistently rejected by US officials [JURIST report].