Abu Ghraib lawsuits against CACI, Titan (now L-3)
On 9 June 2004, a group of 256 Iraqis sued CACI International and Titan Corporation (now L-3 Services, part of L-3 Communications) in US federal court. The plaintiffs, former prisoners, allege that the companies directed and participated in torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, sexual assault, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at Abu Ghraib prison. While the plaintiffs were detained at Abu Ghraib they allege that they were raped, repeatedly beaten, detained in isolation, urinated on, prevented from praying and forced to watch family members being tortured. They further allege that the defendants were negligent in the hiring and supervision of their employees in Iraq. The US Government had hired CACI and Titan to provide interrogation and translation services at military prisons in Iraq.
On 10 September 2004 the defendant companies filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. They argued that the subject matter of the claim constitutes a political question (more information about this doctrine here) and therefore can not be decided by the courts. The defendants also claimed immunity from being sued because of their status as government contractors. The plaintiffs argued that contractors were not immune because the alleged torture at the prison fell outside the scope of the work they had contracted to perform. The district judge denied the companies’ motion to dismiss in June 2006.
In November 2007, the district judge granted summary judgment to Titan/L-3. The court pointed out that unlike CACI employees, Titan employees performed their duties under the direct command and exclusive operational control of the military. This military control meant that Titan could preempt the plaintiffs’ claims through government contractor immunity. The court found that CACI employees were subject to a “dual chain of command”—supervised by both CACI and the military—and therefore they were not able to claim government contractor immunity. The plaintiffs and CACI appealed the verdict.
The Court of Appeals ruled in favour of both defendants on 11 September 2009. It agreed with the dismissal of the claims against Titan/L-3. With regard to the claims against CACI, the court stated that although CACI employees were subject to a dual chain of command, this did not detract from the military’s operational control or the degree to which CACI employees were integrated into a military mission. The court ruled that CACI therefore also had government contractor immunity. In April 2010 the plaintiffs filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking it to hear an appeal in this case. On 4 October 2010 the Supreme Court asked the US Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the United States. The Supreme Court announced on 27 June 2011 that it would not hear the appeal in this case.
On 30 June 2008, 4 Iraqis previously detained at Abu Ghraib sued CACI International, CACI Premier Technology and L-3 Services in US federal court. Similarly to the earlier case against the same defendant companies, the plaintiffs alleged that the companies participated in torture and other illegal conduct. On 20 August 2008, the court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims against L-3 Services. On 2 October 2008, the defendants asked the court to dismiss the case. CACI’s motion to dismiss was denied in part on 18 March 2009. On 23 March 2009, the defendants appealed the court’s decision. On 11 May 2012, the federal appeals court rejected defendants’ appeal, ruling that more facts must be developed in the trial courts before it can consider the contractors’ request to dismiss the lawsuits. In October 2012, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against L-3 reached a confidential, out-of-court settlement with the company (Al-Quraishi v. L-3).
In the lawsuit against CACI (Al Shimari v. CACI), in March 2013 the court granted CACI's motion to dismiss. The dismissal was without prejudice (meaning the plaintiffs can refile an amended complaint) regarding their claims of conspiracy against CACI's subsidiary -- CACI Premier Technology. On 4 April 2013 the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. On 24 April CACI filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' Alien Tort Claims Act claims on the basis of the US Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Shell. On 26 June 2013, the district court dismissed the case finding that, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Shell, it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case under the Alien Tort Claims Act because the incidents happened outside the United States. For the balance of the plaintiffs’ claims, the court concluded that CACI was immune from lawsuits “for claims arising from acts related to its contract or performed in connection with military combat operations”. The plaintiffs have appealed the dismissal. On 30 June 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's dismissal and ruled that the case had sufficient ties with the US for a US court to hear the plaintiffs' claims, sending the case back to a lower court. The lower court granted CACI's motion to dismiss the case on 18 June 2015, holding that CACI's actions at Abu Ghraib were controlled by the US military and that assessing the plaintiffs' allegations would require the court to question "actual, sensitive judgments made by the military". The court concluded that the case thus presents a "political question" that the judiciary does not have power to decide. In August 2015, the plaintiffs appealed the decision. On 21 October 2016, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit. The court ruled that the “political question” doctrine does not prevent courts from hearing cases concerning illegal acts committed by government contractors, even if they are under control of the military. On 28 June 2017, a US court ruled that claims for torture; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and war crimes can be brought under Alien Tort Statute against private actors. In July 2017, CACI filed a motion to dismiss the case. On 22 September 2017, a district court judge denied CACI's request and ruled that the case could proceed. In February 2018, a district judge ruled that CACI could not be held directly liable for torture at Abu Ghraib prison because of a lack of sufficient connection between the plaintiffs and the company. Instead, the judge found that CACI could be held liable for conspiracy to abuse the prisoners, because CACI interrogators gave instructions to military police. The company argued that the court did not have jurisdiction in light of the US Supreme Court decision in Jesner v. Arab Bank which foreclosed ATS jurisdiction over foreign corporations. However, the judge disagreed, concluding on 25 June 2018 that the conspiracy claim filed under the Alien Tort Statute could proceed as it raised no separation-of-powers or foreign relations concerns. On 4 May 2018, the judge had authorised CACI’s lawyers to conduct a pre-trial questioning of the Abu Ghraib prison interrogators, requesting that their identities be kept secret. Next court hearing is scheduled to start on 23 April 2019.
In September 2013 a group for Iraqi former detainees filed a new lawsuit in US court alleging CACI had committed war crimes and torture at Abu Ghraib prison.
- "Contractor Must Face Claims Over Abu Ghraib Abuse", Brandi Buchman, Courthouse News, 26 June 2018
- "Abu Ghraib Interrogators May Be Questioned Incognito in Lawsuit", Peter Blumberg, Bloomberg, 9 May 2018
- "Abu Ghraib ex-inmates' lawsuit moves ahead in federal court", Matthew Barakat, Associated Press, 22 Sep 2017
- "Appeals Court Revives Lawsuit by Abu Ghraib Inmates", Matthew Barakat, Associated Press, 21 Oct 2014
- "Abu Ghraib torture lawsuit revived by U.S. appeals court", Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 30 Jun 2014
- "Iraqis Accuse CACI of War Crimes and Torture", Ryan Abbott, Courthouse News Service, 30 Sep 2013
- "Seeking corporate accountability for crimes at Abu Ghraib", Laura Raymond, Center for Constitutional Rights in Truthout, 29 Apr 2013
- "Judge dismisses core of suit against CACI by Iraqis who say they were tortured at Abu Ghraib", Associated Press, 8 Mar 2013
- "$5M paid to Iraqis over Abu Ghraib", Peter Yost, Associated Press, 8 Jan 2013
- “Appeals court revives Iraqis’ Abu Ghraib suits”, Larry O’Dell, Associated Press, 11 May 2012
- “Abu Ghraib Case Involving Private Contractors Draws Top Court’s Interest”, Greg Stohr, Bloomberg, 4 Oct 2010
- “U.S. Court dismisses Iraqi contractor torture case”, James Vicini, Reuters, 11 Sep 2009
- “CACI Must Face Suit Alleging Torture at Abu Ghraib”, Cary O’Reilly, Bloomberg, 19 Mar 2009
- “Defense contractor claims immunity in Iraq torture”, David Dishneau, Associated Press, 26 Sep 2008
- “Abu Ghraib inmates sue contractors, claim torture” David Dishneau, Associated Press, 1 Jul 2008
- “CACI and Titan Sued Over Iraq Operations”, Renae Merle, Washington Post, 10 Jun 2004
- Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Third Amended Complaint, 19 Jul 2017
- CACI Receives Favorable Court Decision, 26 Jan 2010
- CACI responds to Court’s Decision in Iraq lawsuit, 23 Mar 2009
- Statement Regarding Baseless CCR Lawsuit, 7 May 2008
Center for Constitutional Rights [co-counsel for the plaintiffs]:
- "Private Corporation May be Sued for Role in Abu Ghraib Torture, Judge Rule, Judge Rules", 21 Feb 2018
- "Court Rules Abu Ghraib Survivors' Case of Torture Against Private Military Contractor Can Proceed", 22 Sep 2017
- "Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Third Amended Complaint", 18 Aug 2017
- "Appellate Court Reinstates Abu Ghraib Torture Lawsuit Against Private Military Contractor", 21 Oct 2016
- "No impunity for corporate torturers at Abu Ghraib, attorneys argue", 6 Feb 2015
- "Abu Ghraib Torture Victims May Sue U.S. Corporation, Appeals Court Rules", 30 Jun 2014
- Saleh et al. v. Titan [case summary, includes links to legal documents]
- Al Shimari v. CACI et al. [case summary, includes links to legal documents]
- Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla & L-3 [case summary, includes links to legal documents]
- US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division: Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari, et al., v. CACI Premier Tech, Inc., [opinion on lack of subject matter jurisdiction on conspiracy claims] 25 June 2018
- US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division: Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari, et al., v. CACI Premier Tech, Inc., [opinion dismissing CACI's direct liability claims for torture] 21 Feb 2018
- US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division: Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari, et al., v. CACI Premier Tech, Inc., 28 Jun 2017 [opinion ruling that the case can proceed]
- US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit: Al Shimari, et al. v. CACI, 21 Oct 2016 [opinion reinsating the case]
- US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia: Al Shimari, et al. v. CACI, 18 Jun 2015 [decision dismissing the case]
- US Court of Appeals for the fourth Circuit: [PDF] Al Shimari, et al. v. CACI, et al. - Opinion, 30 Jun 2014
- District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria division: [PDF] Al Shimari, et al. v. CACI International, et al., 26 Jun 2013 [decision dismissing the case]
- US Court of Appeals for the Fourt Circuit: [PDF] Al Shimari, et al. v. CACI, et al. - Opinion, 11 May 2012
- US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: [PDF] Saleh, et al. v. Titan, et al., 11 Sep 2009 [order dismissing case against Titan/L-3 and CACI]
- US District Court for the District of Columbia: [PDF] Saleh, et al. v. Titan, et al. – Memorandum Order, 6 Nov 2007
- US District Court for the District of Columbia: [PDF] Saleh, et al. v. Titan, et al. – Memorandum Order, 29 Jun 2006
- US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria Division: [PDF] Al Shimari, et al. v. CACI – Memorandum Order, 18 Mar 2009
- US District Court for the District of Maryland: [PDF] Al-Quraishi, et al. v. Nakhla, et al. – Opinion, 29 Jul 2010
All components of this story
US appeals court rules military contractor can be sued over allegations of torture & war crimes in Abu Ghraib
Author: Josh Gerstein, Politico (USA)
"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...
US judge allows lawsuit against CACI alleging co's conspiracy to torture Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison to proceed
Author: Brandi Buchman, Courthouse News (USA)
"Contractor Must Face Claims Over Abu Ghraib Abuse", 26 Jun 2018
A U.S. defense contractor who allegedly oversaw torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq can’t rely on a recent Supreme Court ruling to dismiss abuse claims brought against them by former prisoners, a federal judge in Virginia said Monday...In 2008, Al Shimari and the other prisoners sued CACI Premier Technology, a linguistic services company hired by the U.S. military during the U.S. i...Under the Alien Tort Statute, the men claimed the contractor was directly liable for the abuse at Abu Ghraib but in February, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema disagreed. Brinkema found the contractor was not directly liable for the alleged torture...Instead, CACI could be held liable for conspiracy to abuse the prisoners, the judge found...The contractor pushed back, arguing Brinkema did not have the jurisdiction to hear Al Shimari’s conspiracy claims thanks to decision issued by the Supreme Court in April, Jesner v. Arab Bank PLC...But Jesner doesn’t apply here, Brinkema wrote Monday...because here, the matter “involves foreign plaintiffs suing an American corporate defendant...”...And unlike Jesner, neither the U.S. nor any foreign government has expressed objection to the suit...A representative of CACI Premier Technology did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.
Author: Leonie M. Brinkema, District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia Court
- Related stories: Abu Ghraib lawsuits against CACI, Titan (now L-3)
US judge rules Abu Ghraib interrogators may be questioned incognito in lawsuit against military contractor CACI over torture allegations
Author: Peter Blumberg, Bloomberg (USA)
"Abu Ghraib Interrogators May Be Questioned Incognito in Lawsuit", 9 May 2018
As a decade-old lawsuit over alleged torture by a U.S. military contractor at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq finally moves toward revealing what really happened 15 years ago, a judge ruled that the interrogators can be questioned but their identities must remain secret. The federal judge in Virginia issued an unusual order to accomplish this: The lawyers for contractor CACI Premier Technology Inc. asking the questions will conduct a deposition of the interrogators from a separate location without use of video recording. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said in her May 4 order that the U.S. government should try to make the interrogators available so that the company can defend itself. But she agreed with the Justice Department that they should stay incognito...CACI, which lost a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last year, said it’s “essential” to question the interrogators to figure out who may have directed any mistreatment of the three Iraqi detainees who are suing...Brinkema said that she’d be willing to revisit her ruling on the "pseudonymous” depositions if the company determines after questioning the interrogators that it still doesn’t have enough information.
USA: Court rules case against security contractor CACI for torture claims at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq can proceed
Author: Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
"Private Corporation May be Sued for Role in Abu Ghraib Torture, Judge Rule, Judge Rules", 21 Feb 2018
Today, a Virginia federal judge ruled that the treatment of three Iraqi individuals formerly detained at the infamous “hard site” at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq constitutes torture, war crimes, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, based on a thorough review of U.S. domestic and international law. The ruling also held that the men have sufficiently alleged that employees of private military contractor CACI Premier Technology conspired to commit and aided and abetted these crimes. The case, Al Shimari v. CACI, was filed nearly ten years ago, and CACI has repeatedly argued that, even if its employees were involved in torture and other abuse, the company is shielded from liability.
...While a number of low-level military officers were court-martialed over their roles in the abuse, CACI has gone unpunished – and continues to reap millions of dollars in government contracts...
...The Court concluded: “it is clear that the abuse suffered by plaintiffs was intended to inflict severe pain or suffering and rises to the level of torture.”
Al Shimari v. CACI was filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows non-U.S. citizens to sue for violations of international law committed abroad that “touch and concern” the United States. The opinion concludes that the political question doctrine is inapplicable to “cognizable claims” under the ATS.
[See ruling here]
Author: Rachel Weiner, Washington Post (USA)
Thirteen years after leaving Abu Ghraib prison, and nine years after filing suit in federal court, a group of former Iraqi detainees got to make the case before a judge in Alexandria, Va., on Friday that they were tortured and that the contractor CACI International is partly to blame.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema declined a request by CACI to dismiss the case Friday, saying she would like to develop a full record of which employees were “on the scene, and what was going on.” She concluded that there is sufficient evidence for the lawsuit to proceed toward a pretrial judgment from the court or come before a jury.
Interrogators working for the contractor, which is based in Arlington, Va., are accused of directing beatings, starvation, sexual violations, sleep deprivation and other abuse of prisoners in the detention facility…
It is the first civil case against U.S. contractors to get to a point where a judge is evaluating allegations of mistreatment. Other lawsuits have been thrown out on procedural grounds…
In their own court papers, CACI’s attorneys argued that the treatment alleged, while “deplorable” and “undoubtedly humiliating,” is “not severe enough to be considered torture.”…
[CACI] said that “the military approved interrogation techniques — including many of the techniques about which Plaintiffs’ complain,” and that there is no evidence CACI employees were involved in any mistreatment…
Author: Matthew Barakat, Associated Press
After nine years of fits and starts, dismissals and reinstatements, a federal lawsuit filed by one-time inmates at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq against civilian interrogators who worked there is moving ahead.
"We're not dismissing this case. It's going to go forward," U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said at the conclusion of a hearing Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. She said she'll issue a written ruling at a later date outlining her rationale.
The three inmates who are plaintiffs in the case allege the CACI interrogators directed a conspiracy in which they ordered military police to soften up the detainees for questioning with tactics that amounted to torture, including beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nudity and sexual humiliation.
The lawsuit has been dismissed multiple times, only to be reinstated each time by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond…
Brinkema reiterated at Friday's hearing that CACI would be held responsible for unlawful conduct, even if it was carried out at the military's behest…
CACI maintains it is not liable, in part because its interrogators were not the ones who inflicted the punishment on the inmates…
"The court has sent an important message that there can be accountability for torture, a vital step for our clients who have yet to see justice," Azmy [the plaintiffs' lawyer] said.
Author: Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Today, a Virginia federal court ruled that three Iraqi individuals formerly detained at the infamous “hard site” at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were subjected to treatment that could constitute torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and that the case to hold the private military contractor CACI Premier Technology accountable for this treatment can proceed…
Today’s hearing marked the first time in the course of the nine-year case that CCR presented in court the details of the torture and serious mistreatment their clients suffered at Abu Ghraib. In the proceedings to come, plaintiffs will seek to hold CACI directly accountable for cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, torture, and war crimes.
“The court has sent an important message that there can be accountability for torture, a vital step for our clients who have yet to see justice,” said CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy…
Author: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division
...This Memorandum Opinion addresses 1) whether claims of torture; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment ("CIDT"); and war crimes are actionable under the ATS [Alien Tort Statute]; 2) if so, the applicable sources of law for defining the prohibitions; and 3) whether such claims are actionable against private parties...Having set forth the legal standard for the ATS under which this litigation will proceed, the Court will issue an appropriate order directing defendants to file a motion challenging subject matter jurisdiction...
Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe
"第三大支柱： 讓跨國公司侵犯人權行為的受害者獲得司法救濟", 2013年2月