A federal appeals court has cleared the way for a civil lawsuit against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld by two Americans who claim they were tortured while being held by the U.S. military in Iraq.
The Monday ruling from the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected arguments that Rumsfeld should be immune from such lawsuits for work performed as Cabinet secretary.
The two victims, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, sued in federal court seeking damages from Rumsfeld and unnamed others over their roles in developing, authorizing, and using harsh interrogation techniques in Iraq against them, thus violating their rights.
In the suit, Ertel and Vance claim that the torture techniques began after they reported to the FBI that the privately owned Iraqi security company they worked for, Shield Group Security, was paying off an Iraqi sheik to obtain government contracts.
Among the methods of torture used against them during several weeks in military camps was sleep deprivation and a practice known as “walling,” in which subjects are blindfolded and walked into walls, according to the lawsuit.
“If the plaintiffs’ allegations are true, two young American civilians were trying to do the right thing by becoming whistle-blowers to the US government, but found themselves detained in prison and tortured by their own government,” Judge David Hamilton wrote.
Following their alleged tortures, they were released without charges – Ertel after six weeks and Vance after three months.
While there have been similar lawsuits involving allegations of abuse and torture sessions against Rumsfeld and the U.S. Government in the past, federal courts have typically dismissed them due to the fact that they involved foreigners and not U.S. Citizens.