Press release from Burke O'Neil LLC; Center for Constitutional Rights
A Virginia federal court ruled Wednesday that four former Abu Ghraib detainees who were tortured and later released without charge can sue U.S. military contractor CACI International Inc. (NYSE: CAI), according to their U.S. legal team.
U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, of Alexandria, Va., denied CACI's motion to dismiss the detainees' claims which allege multiple violations of U.S. law, including torture, war crimes and civil conspiracy.
CACI sought immunity against the lawsuits and claimed that the actions of its contract interrogators at Abu Ghraib were beyond judicial review. Court martial and other testimony from the soldiers convicted of abuse link the company personnel to the abuse.
In a ruling important to accountability for government contractors in Iraq, the Court ruled Wednesday that "[t]he fact that CACI's business involves conducting interrogations on the government's behalf is incidental; courts can and do entertain civil suits against government contractors for the manner in which they carry out government business. CACI conveniently ignores the long line of cases where private plaintiffs were allowed to bring tort actions for wartime injuries."
The Court also rejected CACI's effort to shield itself from accountability by invoking the political question doctrine. The Court found "the policy is clear: what happened at Abu Ghraib was wrong." The Court reasoned "While it is true that the events at Abu Ghraib pose an embarrassment to this country, it is the misconduct alleged and not the litigation surrounding that misconduct that creates the embarrassment. This Court finds that the only potential for embarrassment would be if the Court declined to hear these claims on political questions grounds. Consequently, the Court holds that Plaintiffs' claims pose no political question and are therefore justiciable."
The plaintiffs are Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari, Taha Yaseen Arraq Rashid, Sa'ad Hamza Hantoosh AI-Zuba'e and Salah Hasan Usaif Jasim Al-Ejaili - all of whom are Iraqi citizens who were released from Abu Ghraib between 2004 and 2008 without being charged with any crime.
The former detainees are represented by attorneys Susan L. Burke, William T. O'Neil and William F. Gould of Burke O'Neil LLC, of Washington, D.C.; Katherine Gallagher of the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Shereef Akeel, of Akeel & Valentine, PLC, of Troy, Mich.
The lawsuit alleges that the CACI defendants not only participated in physical and mental abuse of the detainees, but also destroyed documents, videos and photographs; prevented the reporting of the torture and abuse to the International Committee of the Red Cross; hid detainees and other prisoners from the International Committee of the Red Cross; and misled non-conspiring military and government officials about the state of affairs at the Iraq prisons.
Susan L. Burke, of Burke O'Neil LLC, stated, "The court's ruling is another step toward ensuring that this litigation will contribute to the true history of Abu Ghraib. These innocent men were senselessly tortured by a U.S. company that profited from their misery. Their stories remain untold largely because CACI never interviewed them - or any victims - before reaching and promoting hollow conclusions about what happened at Abu Ghraib. These men came to U.S. courts because our laws, as they have for generations, allow their claims to be heard here."
Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Katherine Gallagher stated, "The Court's decision confirms that private military contractors like CACI cannot act with impunity. They must act within the bounds of law and can be held accountable for their participation in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and the other facilities in Iraq."
The case is "Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari, et al., v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc. and CACI International, Inc.," in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division (Case No. 1:08cv827 GBL).
- US Court Rules Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Can Sue Contractor CACI - 19 March 2009
- Al Shimari v. CACI et al. - more information about the case brought by four Iraqi torture victims against CACI International Inc., and CACI Premier Technology, Inc.
- Abu Ghraib Torture Suit Against Defense Giant CACI Goes Forward - recommended article, 25 March 2009
- Ethical Census 2011 -update on the campaign to keep CACI out of the next Scottish census