For Immediate Release
Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Abu Ghraib Torture Case
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
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
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.
Click here for our page on the case.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.