Federal appeals court revives lawsuits against Abu Ghraib contractors

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled 12-2 May 11 that the earlier dismissal of lawsuits against two Abu Ghraib contractors on the grounds that they have immunity as government contractors was premature. The court sent the cases against CACI International Inc and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc back to the district court for fact-specific scrutiny to determine the validity of their immunity claims. According to the en banc decision of the appeals court, the case must be remanded because, “[t]he appellants are requesting immunity in a context that has been heretofore unexplored. These are not disputes in which facts that might be material to the ultimate issue have been conclusively identified.” Prior to the decision of the appeals court, the US Department of Justice filled an amicus brief claiming that torture claims are not subject to immunity and that the case should be remanded to the district court.

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit dismissed the claims against CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc in September, holding that federal law protecting civilian contractors acting under the control of the US military in a combat situation preempted the plaintiffs’ tort claims based in state law. US military personnel have also been accused of torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Army Spc. Charles Graner, the convicted ringleader of abuses committed at the prison, was released last August for good behavior after serving more than six-and-a-half years of his 10-year sentence.

From Jurist, May 13. Used with permission.

See our last posts on the Iraq and the torture and detention scandals.