In a historic case, a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Wayne R. Andersen, allowed a suit to proceed against former Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld –who is being charged with authorizing torture in the case of two American detainees.
The plaintiffs, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, former employees of Shield Group Security (SGS), have accused US forces in Iraq of imprisoning them without charges in 2006, and hence, have launched a suit against the commander of US armed forces at the time, Mr Rumsfeld.
The two were arrested after American soldiers raided SGS as part of an investigation sparked by Mr Ertel –who had become an FBI informant while working for SGS, after alleging corruption on the part of the Iraqis running SGS. Mr Vance, in turn, had suspected the company of illegal gun running after noticing an excessive stockpile of weapons on the premises.
Vance, a US Navy veteran alleges he was held for three months, and Ertel for one month, at Camp Cropper, the high security location near Baghdad.
Judge Andersen’s preliminary ruling details the duo’s allegations once in captivity:
“Plaintiffs allege that they were taken by United States forces to the United States Embassy. Plaintiffs allege that military personnel seized all of their personal property, including their laptop computers, cellular phones, and cameras, …[then] were escorted to a trailer to sleep for two to three hours… [They] were awakened by several armed guards who placed them under arrest and then handcuffed and blindfolded them and pushed them into a humvee.
“Plaintiffs contend that they were labeled as ‘security internees’ affiliated with SGS, some of whose members were suspected of supplying weapons to insurgents. According to plaintiffs, that information alone was sufficient, under the policies enacted by Rumsfeld and others, for the indefinite, incommunicado detention of plaintiffs without due process or access to an attorney.
“Plaintiffs claim to have been taken to Camp Prosperity, a United States military compound in Baghdad. There they allege they were placed in a cage, strip searched, and fingerprinted …[then] taken to separate cells and held in solitary confinement 24 hours per day. After approximately two days, plaintiffs claim they were shackled, and blindfolded, then placed in separate humvees which took them to Camp Cropper. Again, plaintiffs allege they were strip searched and placed in solitary confinement. …All requests for an attorney allegedly were denied.”
It was not until 2004 that the New Yorker magazine revealed the “systematic and illegal abuse of detainees,” including torture and degrading treatment for other captives by US interrogators and guards at another prison –the notorious Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad. Prior to this, in 2003, Amnesty International went into Baghdad to investigate charges against authorities at Camp Cropper for inhumane treatment of Iraqi prisoners, but were denied access.
The ruling, allowing the prosecution by American citizens of Mr Rumsfeld, was issued in March.