Abu Ghraib lawsuits against CACI, Titan (now L-3)

Prison cell with bedOn 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

CACI:
- 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]

 

Court 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

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Article
19 August 2015

Former Abu Ghraib detainees appeal political question dismissal of suit against war-zone contractor

Author: Dentons

Iraqi citizens who claim that they were abused by civilian government contractor employees who helped the US military interrogate detainees at Abu Ghraib prison following the US invasion in 2003 are appealing a federal district court’s dismissal of their damages suit. On June 24, 2015…the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered judgment dismissing the suit on the ground that it is nonjusticiable under the political question doctrine…“The political question doctrine is a ‘function of the separation of powers,’ and prevents federal courts from deciding issues that the Constitution assigns to the political branches, or that the judiciary is ill-equipped to address.”…Now the Fourth Circuit will have the opportunity to review the district court’s application of the political question doctrine in the war-zone contractor context…

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Article
19 June 2015

Abu Ghraib and the Perversion of the Political Question Doctrine

Author: Steve Vladeck, Just Security (USA)

I’ve written extensively about the important and complex legal questions raised by state-law tort suits against private military contractors, many of which have arisen in the context of suits by victims of torture at Abu Ghraib. It’s against that backdrop that I was disappointed to read yesterday’s…district court decision in al-Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc., which, on second remand from the Fourth Circuit, relied upon the political question doctrine to dismiss Abu Ghraib victims’ claims against the contractors allegedly responsible for their abuse. As I explain in the post that follows, there are two…flaws in Judge Gerald Bruce Lee’s opinion...[O]ne of those flaws is…the result of the Fourth Circuit’s expansive approach to the political question doctrine in military contractor cases…

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Article
18 June 2015

Al Shimari, et al., v. CACI

Author: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

[Full text of the decision dismissing the case]

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Article
19 March 2015

Accountability gap in USA for counter-terrorism human rights abuses by military contractors is alarming, says law professor

Author: Nora Bierman, Los Angeles Times (USA)

“Few have faced consequences for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq,” 17 Mar 2015

Photos of Iraqi prisoners tethered to dog leashes and electrical wires dominated the news when they emerged in 2003 and 2004. The abuse scandal centered at the Abu Ghraib prison… But more than a decade on, the images and the calls for accountability have faded…"The gap in liability for the post-9/11 counter-terrorism abuses is actually pretty alarming and pretty broad," said a law professor at Washington's American University…Vladeck says judges have been reluctant to let most cases against military contractors proceed, preventing plaintiffs from using the discovery process to gather more evidence that could directly implicate the contractors. Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted in military trials of crimes related to the humiliation and abuse of the prisoners. A $5.3-million settlement two years ago with the parent company of L-3 Services Inc…is the only known civil penalty imposed on a private firm…[Also refers to CACI]

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Article
19 February 2015

Abu Ghraib Goes to Court

Author: Kelley Vlahos, American Conservative

Victims of the private contractors responsible for the Iraq war's worst prison abuses are finally being granted standing to sue...[Concerned are] the private contractors from CACI Inc., and Titan Corporation...Scores of former detainees...have taken the private military companies to federal district court, accusing...[them]...[of] cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; torture; war crimes; assault and battery; sexual assault; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and aiding the military handlers in all of these crimes...In 2013, Titan Corporation settled with 70 Iraqis for $5 million. CACI, however, which made billions in the war, has been steadfast in maintaining its innocence...The contractor lawsuits are taking place in a shifting gray area in which there is little solid precedent...Meanwhile, Congress has not stepped in to clarify the law as it applies to contractors in war...But contractors should remain liable, and...that's what the courts are suggesting here...[Also refers to KBR]

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Article
10 February 2015

CACI asks US court to dismiss case over alleged torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib

Author: Al Jazeera (Qatar)

"US defence contractor wants Abu Ghraib lawsuit scrapped", 8 Feb 2015

A US defence contractor which supplied interrogators accused of involvement in the abuse and torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has sought to have a lawsuit against it dismissed, stating its employees were working under military control during a time of war. The plea comes after four former inmates of the prison sued CACI International over the claims…"The military exercised complete control. These interrogation techniques were permitted," said defence lawyer John O'Connor…Baher Azmy from the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the former inmates, said that CACI employees ordered military police to torture the detainees. "It is undisputed that there was a command vacuum when these vicious abuses occurred," he said. "None of them were authorised by the military."…

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Article
6 February 2015

No impunity for corporate torturers at Abu Ghraib, attorneys argue

Author: Centre for Constitutional Rights

…[F]our Iraqi victims tortured at…Abu Ghraib prison urged a federal district court to reject attempts by private military contractor CACI…to have their lawsuit for the contractor’s role in their torture dismissed…U.S. military investigators determined that in 2004 CACI’s employees participated in “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The district court’s 2013 dismissal of the case was overturned in June by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that torture survivors could sue a U.S. corporation involved in torture and other war crimes in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute...CACI now argues that the question of whether it can be held accountable for its established role in the torture is a “political question” unreviewable by the courts…

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Article
6 February 2015

US court to consider if CACI can be sued for damages in USA over alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison

Author: New York Times (USA)

"Will Anyone Pay for Abu Ghraib?", 5 Feb 2015

What happened at the Abu Ghraib prison during the early days of the Iraq war is no secret: The whole world has seen the appalling photos…Yet more than a decade after the fact, only a few low-level military personnel have been held criminally accountable for the abuse and torture that went on there. Meanwhile, the private companies that contracted with the United States military to help “interrogate” detainees are still trying to avoid any accounting at all by civilian courts…[T]hey try to hide behind a web of convoluted arguments that would render them legally untouchable. On Friday, a federal trial court in Virginia will consider whether one of these contractors — CACI International Inc. — can be sued for damages in American courts…

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Article
12 December 2014

U.S. corporations winning fight over human rights lawsuits

Author: Lawrence Hurley, Reuters

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013 that made it all but impossible to sue foreign companies in U.S. courts for alleged roles in overseas human rights abuses is proving to be a boon for U.S. firms too…In the roughly year and a half since the ruling in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, U.S. companies such as Chiquita Brands International Inc, IBM Corp and Ford Motor Co have successfully invoked the Supreme Court's reasoning to fend off lawsuits alleging they were involved in human rights abuses…In the seven cases involving U.S. companies that federal appeals courts have decided since the Supreme Court rulings, corporate defendants have won five…Only one ruling was an outright win for plaintiffs…The Supreme Court ruling means human rights lawyers now have to look more seriously at alternative ways to seek redress for alleged abuses. [also refers to CACI]

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Article
5 December 2014

Access to justice for victims of human rights abuses needs to be strengthened

Author: Sif Thorgeirsson, Manager, Corporate Legal Accountability Project, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

‘Closing the courtroom door: where can victims of human rights abuse by business find justice?’, 1 Dec 2014

…[M]any victims of business-related human rights abuse have no access to judicial remedy in their home country…The majority of cases of abuse we see at Business & Human Rights Resource Centre occur in weak governance zones, which often do not have an independent judiciary, and sometimes lack fully functioning courts…Of the 108 legal cases the Centre has profiled,…[54%] are related to extraterritorial claims…[but t]he effect [of Kiobel] has been a near-freeze on victims seeking justice through this…avenue. At the time of…Kiobel…, there were at least 19 corporate Alien Tort cases pending in US courts.  Since then, only one new…case has been filed…While the scope for remedy from US and English courts is narrowing…there have been three cases filed in Canadian courts addressing extraterritorial business-related human rights abuse...[and]…cases…have been filed in France, Switzerland and Germany…Concerted action is needed by governments and others to reverse the trend toward closing…avenues to justice…[Also refers to Occidental Petroleum, Cisco Systems, Drummond, Chiquita, Rio Tinto,  Daimler, ExxonMobil, Nestle, CACI, L-3 Titan, Nevsun, Hudbay Minerals and Tahoe Resources]

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