Judge Allows Torture Lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld to Proceed

Monday, March 08, 2010

Two Americans who claim they were tortured in Iraq have been allowed to move forward with their lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel say they were detained and interrogated in 2006 while working for Shield Group Security (SGS), an Iraqi-owned security firm. Vance and Ertel say they became suspicious that SGS employees were illegally providing weapons to private Iraqis, and they reported what they had seen to the FBI and other U.S. government officials. However, they were themselves labeled “security detainees” and held incommunicado by the U.S. military. Vance and Ertel allege that they were thrown into cages, strip searched and questioned using “physically and mentally coercive tactics” before being released.

Rumsfeld is the subject of the suit because he approved the techniques used at the bases where Vance and Ertel were held, and “that individuals who issue an order to engage in unconstitutional conduct can themselves be held liable for that conduct. In other words, a superior officer may be considered personally involved in a constitutional violation when his subordinates carried out such a violation pursuant to his policy directive.”
Although two of Vance’s and Ertel’s counts against Rumsfeld were thrown out, U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen allowed the third one to go forward. Anderson said the two plaintiffs submitted enough testimony to warrant hearing evidence of exactly what happened, adding his ruling “represents a recognition that federal officials may not strip citizens of well settled constitutional protections against mistreatment simply because they are located in a tumultuous foreign setting.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Judge Refuses to Dismiss Suit Against Rumsfeld (by Jordan Weissmann, The BLT)
Ill. Judge Won't Toss Torture Suit Naming Rumsfeld (by Mike Robinson, Associated Press)
Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel v. Donald Rumsfeld (U.S. District Court, Northern District Illinois) (pdf)


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