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28 Aug 2019

Josh Gerstein, Politico (USA)

US appeals court rules military contractor can be sued over allegations of torture & war crimes in Abu Ghraib

"Appeals court clears way for trial in Abu Ghraib suit", 25 Aug 2019

A federal appeals court has cleared the way for a trial in a decade-old lawsuit accusing a military contractor of responsibility for torture of prisoners at the notorious, U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but one judge assigned to the case warned the ruling could have “dangerous” results.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday turned down a bid by one the contractor firm, CACI Premier Technology, to invoke sovereign immunity. That protection — typically reserved for U.S. government agencies — bars suits for money damages, except where Congress has waived that immunity.

The three-judge panel did not rule on whether or not CACI is entitled to “derivative” immunity as a result of its work for the U.S. government, but unanimously held that the issue was too muddled for the appeals court could resolve in advance of trial.

“Even if a denial of derivative sovereign immunity may be immediately appealable, our review is barred here because there remain continuing disputes of material fact with respect to CACI’s derivative sovereign immunity defenses,” Judge Henry Floyd wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Stephanie Thacker. “Given these continuing factual disputes, this appeal does not turn on an abstract question of law and is not properly before us.”

One of the jurists on the appeals panel, Judge Marvin Quattlebaum, agreed with the ruling dismissing CACI Premier’s appeal, but wrote separately to expressed concerns about subjecting government contractors to suit, particularly those handling assignments for the U.S. military...

An attorney pressing the suit on behalf of the Iraqis, Baher Azmy of the Center for Constitutional Rights, welcome the decision and said a trial should go forward promptly.
“We hope this decision clears the last of the innumerable obstacles that had stood in the way of what our clients have wanted for over 10 years — to tell their story in an American court of law,” Azmy told Politico.

CACI spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling Sunday night...