A federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit Friday against CACI International that accused the firm's employees of taking part in the torture and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
In a 2 to 1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit dismissed the case on the grounds that CACI should be
immune from prosecution because the company's employees were under U.S.
"During wartime," wrote Judge Laurence H. Silberman, "where a
private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over
which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out
of the contractor's engagement in such activities shall be preempted."
The decision reversed a lower court's ruling in March that the
company must face a lawsuit filed by former detainees who claim that
they were tortured at the detention center near Baghdad.
Ever since the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted in May 2004, CACI has
maintained that it was not involved in the facility's mistreatment of
its detainees, a stance the firm repeated Friday. The Arlington-based
government contractor had provided interrogators to the U.S. military
"The court's decision today is an important step toward resolving
all legal matters regarding the company's mission and duties in Iraq,"
Jody Brown, executive vice president for public relations at CACI, said
in a statement. "We have said from day one that these lawsuits are
completely without merit and designed to pursue a political agenda."
The attorney who argued the case on behalf of the Abu Ghraib
detainees, Susan L. Burke, said on Friday that her legal team intends
to file for an "en banc" review of the case, under which all nine of
the court's judges would hear the appeal.
"We are cautiously optimistic that we will receive en banc review
and that it will be reversed," she said. "We anticipate that the
majority of jurists hearing the matter will adhere to the rule of law."
"Although we are disappointed, this is an anticipated setback in
what will continue to be an ongoing battle against torture," Burke
In a dissenting opinion filed Friday, Judge Merrick B. Garland
argued that there is no judicial precedent that would prohibit the
detainees from suing government contractors.
"The plaintiffs in these cases allege that they were beaten,
electrocuted, raped, subjected to attacks by dogs and otherwise abused
by private contractors," he wrote. "At the current stage of the
litigation we must accept these allegations as true."