[JURIST] US government lawyers asked a federal judge Friday to dismiss a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; ACLU case file] against outgoing US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] in connection with alleged torture and abused by US personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing Rumsfeld is entitled to immunity. The ACLU and Human Rights First sued Rumsfeld [JURIST report] and other military officials in 2005 on behalf of eight former detainees [ACLU profiles]. The suit asserts that Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for abuses and that his actions violated the US Constitution, federal statutes and international law. DOJ lawyers argued Friday that detainees held overseas do not have constitutional rights and therefore an exception to the general rule of immunity which allows suit when an official violates a plaintiff's constitutional rights does not apply.
US District Judge Thomas F. Hogan seemed skeptical of giving Rumsfeld immunity from the allegations, but also acknowledged that allowing the civil lawsuit to proceed would be unprecedented. He promised to rule quickly in the case. Rumsfeld resigned [JURIST report] from his position last month pending the confirmation of his successor. His resignation was quickly followed by the filing of a war crimes complaint [JURIST report] against him under Germany's universal jurisdiction laws. AP has more.