Justice for victims of Abu Ghraib torture could change the business of war

May 15, 2024
The Hill

...In April, I sat in on the closing arguments of Al Shimari v. CACI, a federal lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of three victims of torture at Abu Ghraib against military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. It was the first time the case was made to a jury in a U.S. courtroom, after more than 20 attempts by CACI to get the case dismissed.  Though the jury was unable to reach a verdict, the plaintiffs intend to pursue a retrial.   

The 20-year anniversary of the first reporting on the Abu Ghraib scandal came and went during the trial and these three men are still seeking justice. As young men they survived this chapter of history, but now, pushing into middle age, they are making it: through their fortitude and persistence they might just introduce real penalties for corporations who profit from and exacerbate war crimes. 

The trial has unmistakable resonance today as we witness another cascade of atrocities in the same region. And its eventual outcome could have radical consequences.  

Imagine if Palestinians could sue the tech corporations who are helping Israel bomb Gaza and killing their families. Imagine if Iraqis could sue the defense contractors responsible for the damage to their homes and livelihoods. Imagine if Syrians could sue the companies that used their homeland as a testing ground for new weapons. It’s unfortunate that we need deterrents like this to keep corporations from committing crimes against humanity, but all the evidence suggests they’ll do so unless they can be convinced it’s bad for business.  

The landmark lawsuit challenges the impunity with which corporations act on behalf of the U.S. military and federal government. While the federal government skirted accountability for the horrific torture at Abu Ghraib, finding legal shelter in the Federal Tort Claims Act that grants them immunity from legal liability, the Al Shimari case is challenging the idea that corporations who contract with the federal government would also hold such immunity...

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Last modified 

May 15, 2024