A Travesty of Justice, But Not Unexpected

Federal judge dismisses Rumsfeld torture lawsuit
Lisl Brunner at 4:21 PM ET

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia Tuesday dismissed [press release] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; ACLU case file] against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] for authorizing torture and abuse of detainees by US personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. The suit asserted that Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for detainee abuse and that his actions violated the US Constitution, federal statutes and international law. Chief Judge Thomas Hogan [official profile] based the dismissal on the immunity of government officials from lawsuits and the premise that US constitutional rights do not apply overseas. While noting that the allegations of torture were “horrifying,” Hogan concluded that policy considerations counsel against permitting government officials to be sued for political decisions.

The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First [advocacy websites], which had previously sued Rumsfeld [JURIST report] and other military officials in 2005 on behalf of eight former detainees [ACLU profiles]. A war crimes action [JURIST report] is also pending against Rumsfeld in Germany, where the German Federal Prosecutor [official website] is using Germany’s universal jurisdiction law [AI backgrounder] to investigate similar allegations.

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