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

- 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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29 April 2013

Seeking Corporate Accountability for Crimes at Abu Ghraib

Author: Laura Raymond, Center for Constitutional Rights in Truthout

While some of the low-level soldiers involved in the [Abu Ghraib] abuses were punished, nine years after the notorious photos exposed these crimes to the world, the civilian interrogators who ordered the abuse have not been prosecuted…The only accountability that survivors of torture have been able to obtain against these private corporations has come through civil litigation…Al Shimari v. CACI…is currently proceeding in federal court…[and] may mark the first time a case against a private military contractor for torture goes to trial. Al Shimari has taken on special importance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s…ruling in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which limited the ability of US courts to address human rights abuses committed abroad…The trial in Al Shimari will be a powerful demonstration that, post-Kiobel, US corporations can still be held accountable in US courts for egregious human rights violations they commit abroad…

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7 April 2013

CACI, plaintiffs preparing for trial over Abu Ghraib allegations

Author: Marjorie Censer, Washington Post

CACI International has won some early legal skirmishes in advance of a trial based on allegations that employees of one of its units were part of a group that abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Last month, the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted CACI’s motion to dismiss conspiracy claims associated with the case. The plaintiffs had argued that CACI interrogators conspired with soldiers to abuse detainees. The court also granted CACI’s request to remove parent company CACI International as a defendant. Now, business unit CACI Premier Technology is the only defendant…Three of the plaintiffs are having trouble getting to the United States to provide depositions…Despite having visas and airline tickets, they were not permitted to travel to the United States last month, according to the same court document. [Also refers to Engility (formerly part of L-3 Communications).]

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28 March 2013

Private security's new accountability regime?

Author: James Cockayne, on openSecurity

[The] oversight mechanism for the International Code of Conduct...is a voluntary arrangement...But the inclusion of key government clients...could create strong incentives for industry participation, if in time those governments make participation in the ICoC system a precondition for access to government contractors...It is possible...that over time certification with the Code will become a market norm. Code certification will...raise the credibility of a private security company...[I]n return for this increased legitimacy and access to expertise, companies commit to cooperate with a system of reporting, independent field monitoring and...complaints. The price of increased legitimacy is increased accountability. The field monitoring scheme will focus on situations that pose the greatest human rights risk, and will operate according to established human rights methodologies...[B]y using the ‘effective remedy’ test set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the mechanism will align this industry with the best practice emerging in other global industries facing similar security and operational challenges...The new mechanism will not provide justice to victims of past private security company abuses...It could, though, bring accountability significantly closer for future victims.

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20 March 2013

Iraq War Contractors Fight On Against Lawsuits, Investigations, Fines [USA]

Author: Christina Wilkie, Huffington Post

Until recently, many of the war's most controversial…U.S. contractors faced relatively few repercussions for their conduct in Iraq…But a handful of court rulings in the past two years have put big-name Iraq War contractors on the defensive against allegations of torture, fraud, negligence and extrajudicial killings…In November 2012…a jury found KBR guilty of negligence in the poisoning of eight soldiers in Iraq who were exposed to highly toxic chemicals. The company is appealing the decision…In many cases, the close working relationships between contractors and U.S. personnel during the Iraq War have exacerbated the difficulty for the government in prosecuting contractors who violated U.S. laws or for alleged victims of contractor malfeasance in seeking redress...Like Blackwater…L-3 Services and CACI, are still in the process of settling claims related to Iraq War incidents...[Refers to Academi (formerly Blackwater), Blackwater, CACI, Halliburton, KBR, L-3 Services, Reflex Responses, Xe Services (formerly Blackwater)]

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8 March 2013

Federal Judge Dismisses Much of Abu Ghraib Torture Suit Against Contractor

Author: Matthew Barakat, Associated Press

At a hearing in U.S. District Court, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee tossed out claims that CACI conspired to torture the four men who filed the suit. Some other claims can still go forward, including allegations that CACI aided and abetted torture, but will be difficult to prove. The conspiracy claims were critical to the lawsuit because the four prisoners make no allegation that they suffered harm directly at the hands of CACI employees, who worked as contract interrogators at Abu Ghraib…[A] lawyer for the…Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the plaintiffs, was disappointed by the ruling, but said Lee's decision still allows the plaintiffs to refile their claims to include facts that would support a conspiracy claim… Lee also dismissed parent company CACI International Inc. from the suit, leaving only a subsidiary — CACI Premier Technology, which employed the contract interrogators — as a defendant. The dismissal of the parent company could limit the plaintiffs' ability to collect damages if they eventually prevail…

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5 March 2013

The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC)

Author: Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, for Global Research

The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations recruiting former militaries as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security. However, these individuals cannot be considered as civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive/defensive to an active/offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law either, since they are not part of the army or in the chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities. PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies. Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. [refers to Blackwater, Xe, Unity Resources Group, CACI, L-3 Titan (part of L-3 Communications), Jeppesen (part of Boeing), DynCorp, Meteoric Tactical Solutions, Steele Foundation, Triple Canopy, BAE Systems, United Defence Industries, Lockheed Martin, Lazard Frères, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, BP, Shell, MPRI)

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9 January 2013

Abu Ghraib scandal continuing to create repercussions for contractors

Author: Marjorie Censer, Washington Post

Years after the Abu Ghraib scandal, the repercussions continue to ripple, as...Engility has paid a $5.28 million settlement to dozens of former detainees who claimed mistreatment at that and other U.S.-run detention sites in Iraq…CACI International is preparing for its own trial. Its employees are accused of being part of a group that tortured and beat detainees and deprived them of food and water…CACI is vowing to fight the suit, which could go to trial this year. For these sizeable contractors, a settlement of several million dollars generally isn’t damaging to stock prices, but analysts said the companies are focused on defending their record. [also refers to L-3 Communications]

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8 January 2013

$5M paid to Iraqis over Abu Ghraib

Author: Peter Yost, Associated Press

A defense contractor whose subsidiary was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to torture detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has paid $5.28 million to 71 former inmates held there and at other U.S.-run detention sites between 2003 and 2007. The settlement in the case involving Engility Holdings Inc…, marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers to collect money from a U.S. defense contractor in lawsuits alleging torture. Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go to trial over similar allegations this summer. The payments were disclosed in a document that Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission two months ago but which has gone essentially unnoticed.

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29 October 2012

[PDF] Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin - Issue 7

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[Full text of October 2012 issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. Refers to lawsuits against adidas, Amesys (part of Bull), Anadarko, Anglo Platinum (part of Anglo American), Areva, Blackwater, BP, CACI, Cameron International, Chevron, Copper Mesa Mining, Curacao Drydock, DynCorp, Esmor Correctional Services (part of Correctional Services Corporation), Ford, Global Horizons, Halliburton, L-3, PA Child Care, Paladin, Shell, SNCF, Texaco (part of Chevron), Transocean.]

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13 August 2012

[PDF] Second Session of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group to consider the possibility of an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies -...

Author: International Commission of Jurists

[National] and international regulatory frameworks...show substantial normative and supervisory gaps and insufficiencies in the legal framework in order to create minimal conditions for improved respect of human rights and humanitarian law in the context of PMSCs' activities. The ICJ considers that an international convention is an effective option...[A] possible convention should differentiate between the regulation of private security services at home and abroad, and clarify the different roles of contracting, territorial and home States. [refers to Blackwater (now Academi), Forza (part of Securitas), Rio Blanco Copper (part of Monterrico Metals now owned by Zijn), CACI, L3]

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