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Supreme Court rejects Rumsfeld torture suit appeal

The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday denied [order list, PDF] certiorari in an appeal from two US citizens who were detained and tortured by US forces in Iraq. In Vance v. Rumsfeld [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court was asked to consider whether federal courts may entertain damages claims brought by US civilians who have been tortured by the US military, and whether Ashcroft v. Iqbal [JURIST report] imposes a heightened mental-state requirement in all constitutional tort cases against supervising government officials. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website], sitting en banc, ruled [opinion] in November that the two citizens could not sue [JURIST report] former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] for alleged torture by US soldiers. The court found that the "military authority exception" to the Administrative Procedure Act [text] bars the suit against it by prohibiting judicial review of "military authority exercised in the field in time of war or in occupied territory."

Several Bush administration officials have been sued in recent years for alleged torture and illegal detention. In June 2012 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] announced [JURIST report] the launch of its Torture Database [materials], a collection of more than 100,000 Bush-era documents recording "rendition, detention, and interrogation policies and practices." In June 2011 the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] upheld the dismissal [JURIST report] of a torture suit against Rumsfeld brought by four Afghan and five Iraqi citizens alleging they were illegally detained and tortured. Also that year the US Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF] in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd [Cornell LII backgrounder] that former US attorney general John Ashcroft [JURIST news archive] was immune from suit [JURIST report] by a witness detained in a terror investigation. In February 2011 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 against former president George W. Bush. Other calls to investigate the criminal culpability of Bush and officials in his administration have been consistently rejected by US officials [JURIST report].

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