July 30, 2010, New York - A group of 72 Iraqi citizens who allege they were tortured while imprisoned at detention facilities across Iraq can continue with their lawsuit against military contractor L-3 Services, Inc. and a former employee, a federal judge in Maryland ruled Thursday.
In a 92-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Peter J. Messitte denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the Iraqis’ federal and state court claims. He wrote, “On the facts alleged, Defendants’ actions arguably violated the laws of war such that they are not immune from suit under the laws of war.” The court also rejected claims of government contractor immunity defense.
“During wartime,” the court wrote, “‘many things are lawful in that season, which would not be permitted in a time of peace.’ Some actions, however, have been deemed so repulsive to mankind, or so disconnected from prosecuting and winning a war, that they are universally condemned. The law of war attempts to rein in these behaviors. ...One such universally recognized rule is that torture is prohibited.”
The former detainees, all of whom were released without charge, are represented by Susan L. Burke, of Burke PLLC in Washington, D.C.; Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Shereef Akeel, of Akeel & Valentine, PLC in Troy, Mich.
Susan Burke, of Burke PLLC, stated, “With the Court’s ruling, these innocent men are a step closer to completing the true history of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. These men were senselessly tortured by a company that profited from their misery. They came to U.S. courts because our laws, as they have for generations, allow their claims to be heard here.”
Katherine Gallagher, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, “This thoughtful and thorough decision makes it crystal clear that when corporations, including those which contract with the government, engage in conduct that it universally condemned, they can be held accountable for their illegal acts. The court rightly found that the defendants' status as a contractor cannot shield claims of war crimes and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment from review.”
The lawsuit alleges that L-3 employees, including Adel Nakhla, a U.S. citizen born in Egypt, tortured and otherwise physically and mentally abused the detainees who were arrested by coalition forces and held for up to four years between July 2003 and May 2008 at various detention facilities in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib.
The detainees assert 20 causes of action, including war crimes including the war crime of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, sexual assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, pursuant to the federal Alien Tort Statute and under state law. The abuses they allege include beatings, hanging by the hands and feet, electrical shocks, mock executions, threats of death and rape, sleep deprivation, stress positions, sexual assault, and sensory deprivation.
Nakhla worked as an Arabic translator from June 2003 through May 2004 at Abu Ghraib. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Nakhla was photographed participating in the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and confessed his involvement in acts of torture and abuse to military investigators.
The case is “Wissam Abdullateff Sa’eed Al-Quraishi, et al., v. Adel Nakhla, et al.,” Civil No. PJM 08-1696 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division.
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