WASHINGTON - Human rights lawyers will file a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday
against Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of eight men who say they
were tortured by US forces in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, sources familiar
with the case said.
The lawsuit charges that officials at the highest levels of the US government
shoulder ultimate responsibility for the physical and psychological injuries
sustained by the men while in American custody.
It was the latest development in a scandal over ill-treatment of US war prisoners
that has drawn criticism from around the world.
The case will be filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights
First in US District Court. The two groups scheduled a news conference later
on Tuesday to announce details.
The groups did not state who would be named in the lawsuit, but sources familiar
with the case said it was Rumsfeld.
“The men represented in the lawsuit were incarcerated in US detention
facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they were subjected to torture and
other cruel and degrading treatment, including severe and repeated beatings,
cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death
threats, and restraint in contorted and excruciating positions,” the two
groups said in a statement.
None of the eight men was charged with a crime, the groups said.
Bill Lann Lee, an assistant US attorney general for civil rights during the
Clinton administration, and retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, former judge advocate
general of the US Navy, were due to participate in the news conference.
This is not the first legal case over detainee abuse involving Rumsfeld.
US human rights lawyers in November filed a criminal complaint with Germany’s
federal prosecutor charging that Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet
and other senior officials bore responsibility for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq.
The case was filed in Germany because its laws permit prosecution of war crimes
and human rights violations across national borders. German officials on Feb.
10 said they would take no action against Rumsfeld in the case.
An August 2004 report by a four-member panel appointed by Rumsfeld stated that
he and other top Pentagon leaders contributed to an environment in which prisoners
suffered sadistic abuse at Abu Ghraib.
The report said changes made by Rumsfeld in prisoner interrogation methods
at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, contributed to uncertainty in
the field as to what actions were allowed and what were not. Many detainees
in the US war against international terrorism are held at Guantanamo.
The mistreatment of prisoners became an international scandal after the appearance
last year of pictures showing sexual abuse of men -- naked and bound -- at Abu
Ghraib. The administration led by President George W. Bush says only a handful
of low-ranking personnel were involved.
Dozens of other cases have been brought against soldiers for abusing detainees
elsewhere in Iraq and in Afghanistan.