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
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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Article
20 June 2012

[PDF] New Briefing Highlights Human Rights Lawsuits Against Companies Over Alleged Abuses in Over 25 Countries

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is launching its first annual briefing on Corporate Legal Accountability...This briefing draws attention to the latest developments in lawsuits brought by victims against companies in Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, France, Nigeria, South Africa, UK, USA and other countries. [refers to CACI, L-3, AngloGold Ashanti, Amesys (part of Bull), Chevron]

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Article
11 May 2012

Appeals court revives Iraqis’ Abu Ghraib suits [USA]

Author: Larry O'Dell, Associated Press

A divided federal appeals court...revived two lawsuits by former Iraqi detainees who claimed civilian interrogators and translators participated in their torture at the Abu Ghraib prison, ruling that it’s too early to consider dismissing the cases...“This is significant because it permits these cases to proceed in the lower court and permits our clients to tell their story, and hopefully obtain justice for the torture and abuse perpetrated by each of these two corporate defendants,” said Baher Azmy, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents the former detainees...“We’re reviewing the ruling to determine how to proceed,” said William Koegel, attorney for CACI.

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Article
21 February 2012

Corporate Accountability Now

Author: Corporate Accountability Now is a joint project of EarthRights International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Human Rights Litigation and International Legal Advocacy Clinic at the University of Minnesota Law School

On February 28, 2012, the Supreme Court will hear two cases that will determine whether corporations can be sued for their complicity in torture, crimes against humanity, and other human rights abuses [Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, and Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority]. These cases have profound implications for the future of corporate accountability in the United States. [Site has profiles of the following additional lawsuits: Holocaust settlements; Doe v. Unocal; Wang Xiaoyang v. Yahoo!; Blackwater cases; Apartheid cases; Almog v. Arab Bank; Chiquita cases; Sarei v. Rio Tinto; Abu Ghraib cases; Doe v. Cisco; Doe v. Exxon Mobil; Adhikari v. Daoud & Partners]

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Article
3 February 2012

Federal Court to Decide Whether Former Abu Ghraib Prisoners Can Sue U.S. Contractors for Damages [USA]

Author: ABC News

...[F]ederal appeals court in Virginia is grappling with whether former Iraqi prisoners can bring a civil suit against U.S.-based contractors. The case, which hasn't drawn much public attention, is notable for an unexpected position taken by the U.S. government. Although the government is not a party to the suit, when the court asked for its opinion, it argued the former prisoners' case should be allowed to go forward...It marks the first time the government has said that former Abu Ghraib prisoners, who allege they were tortured while in U.S. custody, should have the opportunity to make their case and sue contractors for damages. But the government says that similar claims in the future would be pre-empted by a federal law passed after the Abu Ghraib scandal that provides separate ways of holding contractors accountable..."...Lawyers for the Iraqis say that the contractors participated directly and through a "conspiracy in torture."...Lawyers for CACI say...their clients were performing military interrogations in a theater of war under contract with the U.S. government. [also refers to L-3 Services]

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Article
20 December 2011

Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Challenge Corporate Impunity

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights

...[A]ttorneys for Iraqi torture victims abused in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison and other detention centers in Iraq challenged two private military contractors’ claims to immunity from being sued on the grounds that their alleged torture occurred during wartime...[A] coalition of groups, including retired military officers and human rights NGO’s and experts, supported their claims by filing amicus briefs that argue that for-profit corporations cannot be considered equivalent to U.S. soldiers and should face justice under traditional legal principles governing any illegal conduct...The lawsuits charge that the two U.S. corporations directed and participated in illegal conduct at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq, including subjecting plaintiffs to electric shocks, sexual assaults, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food and water...The corporations, which had been hired to provide interpretation and interrogation services, argue their actions are protected under the mantle of sovereign immunity and thus beyond review of the courts because they are “combatant military activities.”

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Article
21 September 2011

Appeals court in Virginia tosses 2 lawsuits claiming Iraqis tortured by Abu Ghraib contractors [USA]

Author: Larry O'Dell, Associated Press

A federal appeals court...dismissed two lawsuits by former Iraqi detainees who claimed civilian interrogators and translators participated in their torture at the Abu Ghraib prison. In a 2-1 decision...Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state law claims against contractors CACI International...and L-3 Services, formerly Titan...are pre-empted by federal authority to manage a war. “This case involves allegations of misconduct in connection with the essentially military task of interrogation in a war zone military prison by contractors working in close collaboration with the military,” Judge Paul V. Niemeyer wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined by Judge Dennis Shedd, in the CACI case...Susan L. Burke, an attorney for the detainees in both cases, said she was disappointed with the rulings and would probably ask for a rehearing before the full appeals court...CACI’s lawyer, William Koegel, was pleased with the decision in his case.

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Article
21 September 2011

[PDF] Al-Quraishi v L-3 Services, Incorporated - Opinion

Author: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Seventy-two Iraqis, who were seized in Iraq by the U.S. military and detained at various locations throughout Iraq, commenced this action against L-3 Services, Inc., a military contractor, and one of its employees, Adel Nakhla (collectively, "L-3 Services"). L-3 Services was retained by the military to provide translation services in connection with interrogations of persons detained at various detention sites in the Iraq war zone. The plaintiffs allege that L-3 Services' employees and military personnel conspired among themselves and with others to torture and abuse them while they were detained and to cover up that conduct...L-3 Services filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on numerous grounds, including law of war immunity; the political question doctrine...

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Article
1 July 2011

Combating Impunity

Author: Business and Human Rights Documentation Project (B-HRD)

[sections include: "Business Impacts on Human Rights" - with links to statements/responses by CACI, Triple Canopy, Blackwater Worldwide, Crescent Security Group, KBR, Erinys; "Demanding Justice"; "Human Rights Defenders"]

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Article
27 June 2011

Abu Ghraib Inmates Lose U.S. High Court Bid to Sue Contractors

Author: Greg Stohr, Bloomberg

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive a lawsuit that accused two military contractors of abusing inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, turning away an appeal by 26 onetime prisoners. The inmates sought to sue CACI International..., which helped interrogate prisoners at the facility, and Titan Corp. [now part of L-3 Communications Holdings], which provided translation services...The inmates, who were civilian detainees, said they were subjected to abuses by CACI and Titan employees including beatings, sexual humiliation, exposure to extreme temperatures and rape. In court papers, the inmates said some prisoners were tortured into unconsciousness and several were murdered...A federal appeals court in Washington rejected the suits on a 2-1 vote. The majority said that the Alien Tort Statute generally can’t be invoked against a private party and that contractors are shielded from suits under state law for wartime activities that are closely supervised by the military.

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