Activists want Rumsfeld charged over alleged torture

In the U.S., two human rights organisations want the outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to be held responsible for the alleged torture and abuse of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A landmark case is set to be heard in Washington over alleged U.S. torture policies. Two human rights organisations, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, will argue that Donald Rumsfeld is directly responsible for the alleged torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody.

The case was launched on behalf of 9 Iraqi and Afghan former detainees, who claim that while they were in U.S. custody, they were subject to abuse, torture, cruel and degrading treatment, including severe beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, and threats of death.

None of the nine men has ever been charged and all have been released. The lead counsel in the case says Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility because he believes Rumsfeld personally authorised unlawful interrogation techniques and neglected his duty to stop torture.

The court hearing will be the first time a Federal Court will consider whether top U.S. officials can be legally accountable for alleged torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier this year Rumsfeld argued that he is immune to responsibility for acts of torture and abuse committed under his watch. But military law experts say that preventing abuse is part of Rumsfeld's job.