Abu Ghraib Case Challenges 'Lawlessness' of Private Contractors in Times of War

Eleven years since US invasion of Iraq, lawyers call on courts to hold contractors accountable for war crimes

Roughly eleven years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, human rights lawyers called on a federal appeals court on Tuesday to reopen a case brought by four former Iraqi detainees who were tortured at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison against the private military contractor who ordered the atrocities, CACI Premier Technology, Inc.

"U.S. courts must at last provide a remedy for the victims of torture at Abu Ghraib," said Baher Azmy Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights who is representing the former detainees. "CACI indisputably played a key role in those atrocities, and it is time for them to be held accountable."

"The lower court's ruling creates lawless spaces where corporations can commit torture and war crimes and then find safe haven in the United States," said Azmy. "That's a ruling that should not stand."

Lawyers for CCR said CACI walked free despite having ordered soldiers, who were later court martialed, to commit "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses," as described by military investigators at the time, which included electric shocks, sexual violence, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food, and water, in order to "soften" the detainees for interrogations.

Photos of the detainees' brutal torture, which surfaced in 2004, shocked the nation and created "universal condemnation among U.S. political and military leaders," the plaintiffs said in court papers.

Last June, a district court judge had dismissed the case "by narrowly interpreting" a former Supreme Court decision that limited U.S. courts' ability to rule on human rights violations committed outside the United States.

CACI International "is a US corporation" that was working "in a US-run prison at a time when Abu Ghraib and Iraq were occupied by the US," so they should be held accountable in a U.S. court, Azmy explained to Agence France-Presse.

The appeals court could now take several weeks, or even months, to rule on the case.


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