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Donald Rumsfeld


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Donald Rumsfeld, the second longest serving Secretary of Defense in US history, served in various capacities under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan and under President George W. Bush from 2001 until his resignation in November 2006. Since stepping down, a number of civil and criminal suits have been filed against Rumsfeld for his role in authorizing torture and abuse.

In 2004 and 2006, criminal charges were brought against Rumsfeld in Germany under its universal jurisdiction statute, which allows the prosecution of serious international crimes regardless of where they occurred or the nationality of the victims or perpetrators. The charges by former prisoners of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were brought against Rumsfeld and other US officials including former US Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales and former CIA director George Tenet.

The fifth case against Rumsfeld was filed in France in 2007. The UN Convention Against Torture, ratified by the US and France, requires countries to prosecute a torturer irrespective of where the abuse occurred. Rumsfeld was in Paris at the time the complaint was filed and witnesses say he fled the country. Criminal charges against the former Secretary of Defense have also been filed in Argentina in 2005 and Sweden in 2007.

Despite the growing number of civil and criminal cases against Rumsfeld, many human rights groups are concerned that as a result of political pressure from the US, the former Secretary of Defense will escape prosecution.

Rumsfeld's Resume

The former Defense Secretary has been on a number of boards, including the board of Bechtel Corporation which was awarded lucrative government contracts for an Iraqi oil pipeline in 1983 and the reconstruction of Iraq in 2003. He has been associated with the neoliberal Chicago School of Economics and along with other neoconservatives, created the Project for a New American Century which shaped US "regime change" policy in Iraq. As a fervent supporter of the Bush administration's "war on terror," Rumsfeld was instrumental in instilling fear in the US public to build support for the war in Iraq and justify the unlawful detention of "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

See Video Footage (source: youtube) of Donald Rumsfeld as Special Envoy to the Middle East meeting with Saddam Hussein on December 20, 1983.

Rumsfeld Visited Baghdad in 1984 to Reassure Iraqis, Documents Show (December 19, 2003)

While the US publicly maintained neutrality during the Iran-Iraq war, it privately attempted to forge a better relationship with the government of Saddam Hussein. This policy did not shift when Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran. (Washington Post)

Advisors of Influence: Nine Members of the Defense Policy Board Have Ties to Defense Contractors (March 28, 2003)

This special report by the Center for Public Integrity reveals that at least nine of the thirty members of the Defense Policy Board have ties to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002. (Center for Public Integrity)



Welcome to Boston, Mr. Rumsfeld. You Are Under Arrest. (September 19, 2011)

The Chicago-based 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is not legally immune for acts of torture against US citizens committed while he was in office. The 7th Circuit ruling is the most recent in a rising number of legal actions from former prisoners and torture victims filed in several courts around the world. Courts in Spain, France, and Germany have received criminal complaints against both Rumsfeld and former officials of the Bush administration. Since Rumsfeld is now stripped of immunity, he can now be tried not only under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, but also under ordinary common law. (Truth-Out)

Judge Allows Rumsfeld Torture Suit to Proceed (August 4, 2011)

A US District Court has allowed a lawsuit by a former US contractor against ex- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield. The contractor alleges that he was imprisoned unjustly and tortured by the US military in Iraq. Though a number of similar cases have been filed against Rumsfield, many have been rejected on “claims of immunity.” The Justice Department has argued that Rumsfield cannot be sued personally for conduct in his capacity as Secretary of Defense, and that judges cannot review Presidential or Congressional wartime decisions. However, US District Judge James Gwin rejected these arguments, stating that US citizens are protected by the constitution at home and abroad. This judgment comes as a stark reminder to the US that its own officials cannot escape accountability for breaches of human rights. (The Raw Story)


Rumsfeld Prosecution Could Set Precedent (February 17, 2009)

According to Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, there is enough evidence to try former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes. Rumsfeld, together with other high ranked officials in the Bush administration, are responsible for approving new 'interrogation policies' in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other US detainee centers. In February 2004, US Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba reported that "systematic" and "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" were taking place and that the abuse was not the result of only a few soldiers acting on their own, but the consequence of interrogation policies approved by Rumsfeld and other top officials. (Japan Times)


Leading Lawyer Calls For Rumsfeld Prosecution (December 14, 2008)

Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, calls for a formal prosecution of former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld for authorizing the torture and abuse of detainees in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Rumsfeld and other senior officials permitted torture, including 'waterboarding', after an investigative study showed that they effectively break the will of persons subjected to these practices. (Common Dreams)

Report on Detainee Abuse Blames Bush Top Officials (December 12, 2008)

A report from the Senate Armed Services Committee accuses former US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, of authorizing aggressive investigative techniques against detainees in Guantanamo Bay and US prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rumsfeld authorized the use of forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation and the use of extreme temperatures during the interrogation of suspects, some of which amount to torture. (Washington Post)

ACLU and HRF Ask Circuit Court to Reconsider Rumsfeld Torture Case (April 25, 2008)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First (HRF) filed a motion to overturn the dismissal of a 2005 lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld. The suit was originally filed on behalf of nine Iraqi and Afghan civilian detainees who were tortured by US military personnel. The ACLU and HRF call on the Circuit Court to hold Rumsfeld liable for the torture, and claim that Rumsfeld not only knew about the abuse, but also gave direct orders and authorization to carry out the measures. (Human Rights First)


From The Desk of Donald Rumsfeld (November 1, 2007)

In this Washington Post article, the author examines copies of internal Pentagon memos written by former US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. The documents suggest Rumsfeld was attempting to re-shape public opinion on the war in Iraq with such statements as "make the American people realize they are surrounded by violent extremists." Commentators suggest the former Defense Secretary had a series of trademark sayings which reveal his long term ruminations about Russia and his dislike of media criticism. A memo in 2006 reveals that to Rumsfeld "Iran is the concern of the American people, and if we fail in Iraq, it will advantage Iran."

Rumsfeld Flees France, Fearing Arrest (October 29, 2007)

Four human rights groups have filed a complaint in France charging former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with "ordering and authorizing" torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Commentators suggest that Rumsfeld was in France attending a meeting when he allegedly fled to Germany to avoid arrest. According to this AlterNet article, under international law French authorities are obliged to investigate the complaint and will likely pursue Rumsfeld across the border. This comes as a stark reminder to the US that its own war criminals cannot escape accountability for breaches of human rights.

Rumsfeld Charged with Torture in French Court (October 29, 2007)

Leading human rights groups file an indictment against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for authorizing the torture of prisoners in US custody. The charges against Rumsfeld were made in France and based on the Convention against Torture, which is endorsed by both the US and France. The plaintiffs say that there is enough evidence against Rumsfeld to prove the accusations in court. (OneWorld)


Charges Sought Against Rumsfeld Over Prison Abuse (November 10, 2006)

For the second time since 2004, the Center for Constitutional Rights intends to bring criminal charges against former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his alleged role in prisoner abuse at the US-run Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay detention facilities. Under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, the US-based organization can pursue its case in Germany, even though the crimes took place in other countries. The lawsuit demonstrates the international community's growing discontent with those "at the top of the chain of command" escaping prosecution for crimes against humanity. (Time)


Give Rumsfeld the Pinochet Treatment, Says US Amnesty Chief (May 25, 2005)

In an unusually outspoken speech, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA William Schulz sharply criticized Washington's failure to address US officials and top officers' responsibility in torture cases. Schulz called on the Pentagon to allow an independent investigation and urged foreign governments to arrest any US official who enters their territory – including President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director George Tenet – for trial on prisoner treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention against Torture. (Inter Press Service)


Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld Threatens US-German Relations (December 14, 2004)

Under German legislation that allows for universal jurisdiction, New York's Center for Constitutional Rights and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association filed a lawsuit against US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials liable for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The Pentagon warns that "frivolous lawsuits" would put the countries' relations at risk, and Rumsfeld threatens to boycott the annual Munich security conference if the lawsuit advances. (Deutsche Welle)

Four Ex-Detainees Sue Rumsfeld, 10 Others (October 28, 2004)

Former Guantanamo ex-detainees sued top US military officials for violating national and international human rights laws in what could become a landmark case of the Alien Tort Claims Act. US officials say they upheld all legal obligations, even though the Bush administration has said the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the Afghan conflict. The ex-detainees cite "top secret memos" made public after the prison abuse scandals as among the evidence against the officials. (Boston Globe)

Hamdi, Padilla, and Rasul vs. Rumsfeld and Bush (June 29, 2004)

Mainstream media are reporting that the Supreme Court decision affirming the right of Guantanamo Bay detainees to file petitions challenging their detention represents a major victory for advocates of civil liberties. Dissenting from this view, lawyer Elaine Cassel argues that the ruling is in fact a victory for the US administration, paving the way for the continued "despotic" treatment of terrorism suspects. (Civil Liberties Watch)


American Civil Liberties Union- Safe and Free Restore our Constitutional Rights

Human Rights First- Case Against Donald Rumsfeld

Center for Constitutional Rights


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