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Detainee at Abu Ghraib prison (Reuters)

US Contractor Off the Hook for Abu Ghraib Torture with 'Token Payment'

$5 million settlement for victims comes years after abuses, highlights 'public problems of military outsourcing'

Jacob Chamberlain

Seventy-one victims of torture at Abu Ghraib, the notorious U.S. prison in Iraq, will split a $5 million settlement following a lawsuit against the U.S. military contracting company Engility Holdings, the Associated Press reports Wednesday, providing "some measure of justice for the victims" but letting individual contractors escape punishment.

Engility, formerly known as L-3 Services and Titan Corporation, is now the first U.S. corporation involved in the abuses at Abu Ghraib to be forced to compensate victims of torture.

"Private military contractors played a serious but often under-reported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib," Baher Azmy, lawyer for the ex-detainees and legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights told Associated Press, but also expressed that the settlement "provides some accountability for one of those contractors and offers some measure of justice for the victims."

However, as RT reports, the settlement is "a meager amount" when compared to other lawsuits involving prison abuse in the U.S., and adds:

The average $74,000 compensation for each Abu Ghraib victim of rape, torture, death threats and physical harm seems almost inconsiderable in comparison, especially given the high levels of torture the Iraqi prisoners were subjected to. And many more Iraqi victims of abuses are unlikely to receive any sort of compensation at all.

As Peter W. Singer, of the Brookings Institution told Wired, the settlement raises questions over true accountability for U.S. military contractors and their actions overseas:

Soldiers get court martialed, but for the very same incident, the contractors named in the same reports face no individual punishment and their firm just throws high power lawyers at the problem until it decides to make it go away with a token payment?

Engility Holdings, a spin off of L-3 Communications, is a major government contractor and Fortune 500 company. The company employs more than 50,000 people and had a turnover of more than $15 billion in 2011 alone, Patrick Cockburn reports in the Independent.

The settlement was reached over two months ago but had gone unnoticed until a document filed by Engility with the Securities and Exchange Commission was uncovered by the Associated Press Wednesday.

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