Federal judge allows Rumsfeld torture suit to proceed

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Friday 5 March denied  a motion to dismiss a torture suit brought against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld by two American citizens captured while working in Iraq.

Judge Wayne Andersen dismissed two other counts but allowed the count alleging the plaintiffs were subject to cruel and degrading treatment methods during their detention. The plaintiffs, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, were working for a private Iraqi security firm called Shield Group Security. There they witnessed suspicious activity that they reported to US authorities, but they were later arrested by US forces and detained without representation. The plaintiffs brought a cause of action recognized in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics against Rumsfeld, claiming that he was personally responsible for the alleged unconstitutional treatment they faced while in detention.

While allowing the suit seems in conflict with the recent decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which extended heightened pleading requirements under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) beyond antitrust cases, the judge wrote that Iqbal “requires vigilance on our part to ensure that claims which do not state a plausible claim for relief are not allowed to occupy the time of high-ranking government officials,” but is not supposed to be a “categorical bar on claims against” them.

Rumsfeld has faced multiple suits brought in relation to treatment of detainees. Last month, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that claims of unlawful treatment and wrongful death brought on behalf of two former Guantanamo Bay detainees are barred by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). The claim was brought against Rumsfeld and more than 100 military officers and personnel under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which provides that district courts have original jurisdiction to hear claims for torts “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” In another suit last December, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit against Rumsfeld and other military officials brought by four UK citizens who were detained at Guantanamo.

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