US appeals court revives Abu Ghraib torture suit

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled (PDF) Oct. 21 that former detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison may continue their torture lawsuit against civilian military contractors. Four former prisoners allege that they were subjected to various forms of torture at the hands of CACI Premier Technology  contractors. The case had previously been dismissed under the "political question doctrine," but the court held the doctrine does not prevent the judiciary from deciding the case.

We recognize that the legal issues presented in this case are indisputably complex, but we nevertheless cannot abdicate our judicial role in such cases. Nor will we risk weakening prohibitions under United States and international law against torture and war crimes by questioning the justiciability of a case merely because the case involves the need to define such terms. The political question doctrine does not shield from judicial review intentional acts by a government contractor that were unlawful at the time they were committed.

CACI has continued to deny any wrongdoing at the prison.

The Fourth Circuit had previously reinstated an Abu Ghraib torture lawsuit in 2014. The previous year, CACI filed suit against former detainees of Abu Ghraib, seeking legal expenses incurred from the lawsuit. In January 2013 a military contractor accused by former Abu Ghraib detainees of conspiring to torture detainees paid $5.28 million to detainees held at the prison and other US detention centers in Iraq. In September 2011 the Fourth Circuit dismissed another case  filed by former Iraqi detainees who also claimed they had been tortured by civilian contractors at the prison.

From Jurist, Oct. 23. Used with permission.

  1. Court rejects release of Abu Ghraib photographs

    The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled (PDF) Aug. 22 that photographs of detainees taken by US military personnel can be withheld from release. In 2003 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the release of photographs depicting torture at military detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of 9-11. The government has argued that the photographs may be withheld pursuant to various exemptions to the FOIA, including the 2009 Protected National Security Documents Act (PDF), which permits the government to withhold disclosure of any photographs taken between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 22, 2009, that related to individuals detained by US forces. (Jurist)

  2. Judge allows Abu Ghraib prisoners’ lawsuit to move forward

    US District Judge Leonie Brinkema on Feb. 27 allowed a lawsuit brought by three former inmates of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq against military contractor CACI Premier Technologyto proceed. The case, originally filed in 2008 by the Center for Constitutional Rights, alleges that military police (MPs) tortured the prisoners at the direction of civilian contractors like CACI. The suit claims that CACI would order MPs to torture prisoners as a way to soften them up for questioning by civilian contractors. The case has been dismissed multiple times by the district court, but has been revived by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit each time.

    The district judge said that she interprets the Fourth Circuit’s remand to require her to bring the case to trial and said to the parties, “You should expect, if you don’t settle this case, it’ll go to trial.”

    This latest ruling is a result of CACI’s motion to dismiss based on State Secrets Privilege. CACI stated that because the military refuses to declassify the names of the troops and contractors, CACI could not mount a defense. The district judge was sympathetic and granted a motion to dismiss against a plaintiff whose time at Abu Ghraib did not overlap with CACI’s, but refused to dismiss on the State Secrets Privilege.

    CACI also maintains any jury would be influenced by the negative public reaction to torture at Abu Ghraib prison where photos of prisoner treatment were released in 2008. (Jurist)

  3. Mistrial in suit over Abu Ghraib

    A judge has declared a mistrial in a civil case against US military contractors accused of contributing to abuse at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison some 20 years ago. Jurors were not able to agree on the accusations that the Virginia-based contractors were complicit in the abuse. The case is the first time a US jury heard directly from survivors of torture at Abu Ghraib. (TNH)

  4. CACI to face retrial over allegations of torture at Iraq prison

    A US federal judge ordered a retrial on June 14 in a case involving allegations that Virginia-based military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) contributed to the abuse and torture of detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison two decades ago.

    Judge Leonie Brinkema granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a new trial and denied CACI’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. The decision follows a civil trial earlier this year where an eight-person jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, which is required in federal civil cases. (Jurist)