KBR lawsuit (re human trafficking in Iraq)
Snapshot: In 2008, family members of 12 men killed in Iraq and a surviving worker filed a lawsuit in US court against Kellogg Brown & Root, a US military contractor in Iraq. The action was brought under federal trafficking law and the Alien Tort Claims Act and alleges racketeering, trafficking, forced labour, slavery, and false imprisonment. In response, KBR stated its employees were expected to adhere to a company code of conduct and not participate in human trafficking. The case was dismissed by the federal court.
In August 2008, family members of 12 men killed in Iraq and a surviving worker filed a lawsuit in US federal court against Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a US military contractor in Iraq, and its Jordanian sub-contractor, Daoud & Partners. The action was brought under federal trafficking law and the Alien Tort Claims Act and is based on, among other things, allegations of racketeering, trafficking, forced labour, slavery and false imprisonment.
The plaintiffs claimed that the 13 men were initially recruited in Nepal to work in hotels and restaurants in Amman, Jordan. Instead, they alleged that a Daoud & Partners representative seized their passports after they arrived in Jordan, and that they were later trafficked into Iraq to work at a US military facility. Twelve of the men were killed by insurgents en route to the worksite in Iraq. The 13th man, who travelled separately, was allegedly held in Iraq for fifteen months and forced to work in a warehouse under the supervision of KBR. The plaintiffs argued that Daoud, KBR and their co-conspirators were parties to a trafficking enterprise. They further alleged that both Daoud and KBR were responsible for the trafficking scheme – from the moment of recruiting the men in Nepal until their arrival in Iraq. In a statement issued by KBR in response to the suit, KBR said that its employees were expected to adhere to a company code of conduct and complete ethics training that includes information about human trafficking. In August 2013, the district court rejected some of the defendants' motions to dismiss, and ruled that the case may proceed to trial. Specifically, the court dismissed the Alien Tort Claims Act claims against the defendants, but it allowed the claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) against KBR to proceed. In January 2014, US District Judge Keith Ellison reversed his September ruling, finding that the families cannot proceed on the basis that the TVPRA (amended in 2008 to allow extraterritorial claims) could not be applied retroactively to 2004, when the incident occurred. In March 2015, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motions for rehearing and leave to amend the ACTA claim. The court found that the plaintiffs presented no new legal authority, and identified no error in law or fact. The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal. On 3 January 2017, a US court of appeals upheld the lower court's decision, ruling that alleged company's misconduct lacked a sufficient connection with the US.
This federal case followed an action brought in 2006 before an administrative court with jurisdiction over cases that involve workplace injuries at overseas military bases. This action was brought by nine of the victims’ families against Daoud and its insurance company – Continental Casualty Company. In April 2008, a judge in the U.S. Department of Labour’s Office of Administrative Law ruled that the men’s families were entitled to death benefits. The fate of the 12 Nepali men was also investigated by the Inspector General for the United States Department of Defense, who confirmed the facts relating to their death.
- "Legal Blow for Families of Slain Nepali Workers", Bonnie Barron, Courthouse News Service, 27 Aug 2013
- “Nepalese killed in Iraq in 2004: Light at the end of the tunnel”, Suresh Nath Neupane, Kathmandu Post, 20 Apr 2009
- “Cohen Milstein files suit against KBR for human trafficking”, Washington Business Journal, 27 Aug 2008
- “Families of Nepalese workers killed in Iraq sue KBR”, Reuters, 27 Aug 2008
- “D.C. attorneys win human trafficking case in Iraq”, Washington Business Journal, 16 Jul 2008
- KBR: Mission, Vision and Values
- Cohen Milstein: KBR Ordered to Stand Trial in Human Trafficking Case, 23 Aug 2013
- Cohen Milstein: Nepali Laborers
- EarthRights International and Center for Constitutional Rights: Amicus brief in support of appellants and reversal, 1 Oct 2015
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, 24 Mar 2015
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Jan 2014
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, 23 Aug 2013
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, KBR et al - Complaint, 27 Aug 2008
- US Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges : P.A. et al. v. Daoud & Partners c/o KBR, Inc. et al. - Decision & Order Granting Claimants' Motion for Summary Decision, 16 Apr 2008