No Accountability for Military Contractor’s Role in Abu Ghraib Torture, Federal Judge Says
June 26, Alexandria, VA – Today, on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a United States district court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of four Iraqi men who were tortured at Abu Ghraib. Al Shimari v. CACI International Inc. was filed against private U.S.-based contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (“CACI”), which U.S. military investigators concluded had participated in torture and other “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of detainees at Abu Ghraib. The suit, which brought claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) for torture and war crimes, was the last active case seeking accountability for torture at Abu Ghraib.
In dismissing the torture victims’ claims, the district judge did not suggest that the plaintiffs’ allegations of torture or a conspiracy involving CACI were unfounded. Rather, the district court narrowly interpreted the “presumption against extraterritorial application” of the ATS set forth in the recent Supreme Court decision, Kiobel v. Shell/Royal Dutch Petroleum, to foreclose claims arising in Iraq, even though CACI is a U.S.-based corporation, it conspired with U.S. soldiers to commit war crimes that were punished in U.S. courts martials, and the torture and war crimes occurred at a time when the United States exercised total jurisdiction and control over Abu Ghraib prison. The Supreme Court held in Kiobel that the presumption could be displaced in cases that “touch and concern” the United States “with sufficient force.”
Said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy, “The district court was incorrect to read Kiobel in such a narrow and technical way, as its ruling effectively created lawless spaces where even U.S.-based entities can commit torture and war crimes with impunity. The ATS and the Kiobel decision cannot be interpreted to provide safe haven in the United States to entities that have engaged in egregious human rights abuses abroad. The announcement of today’s decision on the International Day in Support of Torture Victims is particularly disappointing.”
At Abu Ghraib, the plaintiffs were subjected to electric shocks, sexual violence, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food, and water. U.S. military investigators concluded that several CACI employees serving as interrogators directed abuse of Abu Ghraib employees in order to “soften” them up for interrogations.
“This is a sad day for our clients to obtain justice in the U.S. and runs contrary to our country’s efforts to remedy the horrific wrongs that were committed in the prison of Abu Ghraib. We will keep fighting to ensure that our clients get their day in court against those that tortured them,” said attorney Shereef Akeel.
Plaintiffs plan to appeal the district court’s decision. Co-counsel in the case are Shereef Akeel of Akeel & Valentine, P.C. in Troy, Michigan, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, and George Brent Mickum IV.
The case is Al Shimari v. CACI International, Inc. Click here to read today’s ruling.