Rumsfeld Sued For Torture

Rumsfeld Sued For Torture

Busy news day here at Opinio Juris. The ACLU and Human Rights First announce that they, along with a group of former military officers, have sued Donald Rumsfeld over the use of torture and/or other abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Really quick take: The biggest practical obstacle here is Rumsfeld’s immunity as a government official. Still, there might be ways to get around this and at the very least, it will force the government to defend its activities. And it might require a court to wrestle with some of the tricky questions on just what constitutes torture that we have been batting back and forth here.

UPDATE: The complaint can be found here. Some of the allegations are rather shocking:

  • Refusing to provide medical care for gunshot wounds inflicted by U.S. forces for several hours and then removing bullets from Plaintiff Ali H.’s neck and back without anesthetic, intentionally causing excruciating pain;
  • Refusing to provide Plaintiff Ali H. with food, water, and pain medication for one-and-a-half days, despite his gunshot wounds, in order to cause pain, hunger, thirst, and humiliation;

More to the point, the allegations raise another possible issue and defense for Rumsfeld, namely, “I never authorized this behavior”. Certainly, there is no actual document or allegation directly linking him to this behavior, no “smoking gun” so to speak. I presume that is what he will argue (in addition to the argument that this behavior never occurred, which is still possible). As I’ve argued before, if this type of stuff was going on, the mere fact that he didn’t stop this behavior, or do something to prevent this behavior, is bad enough and should be grounds for his resignation (but not his liability in these sorts of lawsuits).

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