At a Glance
On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court declined without comment to take up the case, following a 2-1 dismissal by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on September 11, 2009, thereby ending this litigation.
- Katherine Gallagher
Susan Burke and Katherine Hawkins of Burke PLLC
Shereef Akeel of Akeel & Valentine, PLC
256 Iraqi civilians who were tortured at Abu Ghraib prison
Saleh, et al. v. Titan, et al. is a federal class action lawsuit against U.S.-based private contractors CACI International, Inc. and Titan Corporation (which first changed its name to L-3 Services, and later to Engility), for their role in torture and other illegal acts committed at Abu Ghraib prison, where they were hired by the U.S. to provide interrogation and translation services. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the suit on behalf of over 250 Iraqi civilians who were subjected to horrifying acts of torture at the hands of these contractors and certain government co-conspirators. Along with Al Shimari v. CACI and Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla, this case is part of CCR’s effort to bring accountability for torture and other serious violations of international law arising out of the so-called “war on terror” and corporate human rights violations.
At Abu Ghraib, our clients were subjected to heinous acts, including rape and threats of rape and other forms of sexual violence; repeated beatings with chains and other objects; forced nudity; hooding; isolated detention; and sleep deprivation. They were also prevented from praying and otherwise abiding by their religious practices. One of our clients was forced to watch his father being tortured to such a degree that he died.
The named lead plaintiff, Haidar Saleh, is a Swedish citizen who had opposed the Ba’ath Party and was imprisoned and tortured under Saddam Hussein in the Abu Ghraib prison. After being released from prison, Mr. Saleh fled from Iraq to Sweden. After the Hussein regime fell, in response to the United States’ plea for expatriates to return and help rebuild Iraq, Saleh returned to Iraq with funds to invest and rebuild the country. Upon his arrival in September 2003, he was detained and sent to the same Abu Ghraib prison where he had been tortured by Saddam Hussein.
While Mr. Saleh was at Abu Ghraib, he was tortured as part of a conspiracy by contractors named in this lawsuit and their co-conspirators. Mr. Saleh was beaten with a stick, and his genitals were stretched with a rope. He was kept naked for extended periods of time with a hood over his head, sodomized, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep, and threatened with dogs. Chemicals were poured on his body and rubber bullets were shot at his chest. Mr. Salah observed his torturers summarily execute other detainees and rape two young men. He also saw them rounding up and imprisoning local women. For approximately 13 days, he heard the women cry and scream. Although he did not see the acts, he is convinced they were being raped.
The lawsuit was brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which CCR has pioneered for decades as a tool to pursue international human rights violations, and federal question jurisdiction. The complaint charged CACI International, Inc. and Titan Corporation with violations of state, federal, and international law, including torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; war crimes; crimes against humanity; negligent hiring and supervision; and sexual assault and battery.
On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court declined without comment to take up the case after a federal appeals court in Washington dismissed the case, ruling that claims against the contractors were precluded under a doctrine the two majority judges called “battlefield preemption,” over a strong dissent. The majority also found that the Alien Tort Statute claims, including claims of torture, could not be brought against contractors because they are not “state actors.”