updated 3/27/2007 6:11:35 PM ET 2007-03-27T22:11:35

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cannot be tried on allegations of torture in overseas military prisons, a federal judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan threw out a lawsuit brought on behalf of nine former prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Rumsfeld cannot be held personally responsible for actions taken in connection with his government job.

The lawsuit contends the prisoners were beaten, suspended upside down from the ceiling by chains, urinated on, shocked, sexually humiliated, burned, locked inside boxes and subjected to mock executions.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First had argued that Rumsfeld and top military officials disregarded warnings about the abuse and authorized the use of illegal interrogation tactics that violated the constitutional and human rights of prisoners.

"Despite the horrifying torture allegations," Hogan wrote, he could find no case law supporting the lawsuit, which he previously had described as unprecedented.

Grounds for a bin Laden lawsuit?
Government officials are normally immune from such lawsuits, and foreigners held overseas are not normally afforded U.S. constitutional rights.

Allowing the case to go forward, Hogan said in December, might subject government officials to all sorts of political lawsuits. Even Osama bin Laden could sue, Hogan said, claiming two American presidents threatened to have him murdered.

"There is no getting around the fact that authorizing monetary damages remedies against military officials engaged in an active war would invite enemies to use our own federal courts to obstruct the Armed Forces' ability to act decisively and without hesitation," Hogan wrote Tuesday.

Had the Rumsfeld lawsuit been allowed to go forward, attorneys for the rights group might have been able to force the Defense Department to disclose what officials knew about abuses at prisons such as Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and what was done to stop them.

Hogan also dismissed the charges against other officials named in the lawsuit: retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, former Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski and Col. Thomas M. Pappas.

Karpinski, whose Army Reserve unit was in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison, was demoted and is the highest-ranking officer punished in the scandal. Sanchez, who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq, retired from the Army and said his career was a casualty of the prison scandal.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments