Former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld is likely to find himself in court soon facing charges over torture allegations. A federal appeals court panel decided 2-to-1 on Monday to allow the case involving the alleged torture of two former security contractors to proceed against the former defense secretary.
Two American citizens, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, are leading the case. They were detained and held without charge in the U.S. military prison, Camp Cropper, in Iraq in 2006.
Both men worked for Shield Group Security, a private security services company in Iraq, and were detained in the military prison after warning authorities that the company they were working for was involved in illicit activities including illegal exchanges of weapons and ammunition.
The men were then arrested and taken to Camp Cropper where they allege that their requests for access to lawyers were denied and they stayed in cold solitary cells that were bug infested and had feces on the wall.
The men also claim that they were deprived of sleep, blankets, and food while they were also threatened with beatings.
The men are filing suit against Rumsfeld because they believe that he personally authorized the interrogation techniques that were used against them while at Camp Cropper.
They also argue that despite having knowledge that torture tactics were being used against them, Rumsfeld failed to stop detainee abuses.
The Seventh Circuit of Court Appeals in Chicago established that the, “Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to show that Secretary Rumsfeld personally established the relevant policies that caused the alleged violations of their constitutional rights during detention.”
The U.S. government has attempted to evade such charges arguing that Rumsfeld had immunity for actions taken while in his government post and that U.S. citizens cannot sue over violations of their rights in a war zone.
However, Judge David Hamilton, one of the two judges that approved moving forward on the case, argued in Monday’s opinion, “United States law provides a civil damages remedy for aliens who are tortured by their own governments. It would be startling and unprecedented to conclude that the United States would not provide such a remedy to its own citizens.”
He continued saying, “There can be no doubt that the deliberate infliction of such treatment on U.S. citizens, even in a war zone, is unconstitutional.”
Rumsfeld’s lawyer released a statement saying that the ruling “saps the effectiveness of the military, puts American soldiers at risk, and shackles federal officials who have a constitutional duty to protect America.”
The statement continued, “Having judges second-guess the decisions made by the armed forced halfway around the world is no way to wage a war.”
The case is the second court ruling this month in which U.S. judges have determined that Rumsfeld faces no immunity in torture cases that can substantially indicate that he could have had personal responsibility in promoting methods of abuse towards detainees.
Rumsfeld began his post as defense secretary in 2001 under then President George W. Bush. He held his post until 2006.