WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is responsible for torture and abuse of prisoners held by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan and should compensate the victims, a lawsuit contended yesterday.
The suit was filed on behalf of four Iraqis and four Afghans who allege they suffered severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation, and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in excruciating positions.
They were held in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 and 2004, were never charged with crimes, and have been released, according to officials at the groups that filed the suit, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First.
The suit is the latest against Rumsfeld, military commanders, and others since the disclosure last spring of photographs taken at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
The Pentagon said in a statement that military officials ''vigorously dispute any assertion or implication that the Department of Defense approved of, sanctioned, or condoned as a matter of policy detainee abuse."
The suit contends that Rumsfeld is to blame for the abuses because he changed long-held interrogation policies and practices designed to prohibit torture.
The groups said the Pentagon chief later ignored overwhelming evidence that the policies had resulted in the abuse of prisoners.