KBR lawsuit (re human trafficking in Iraq)
In August 2008, family members of 12 men killed in Iraq and a surviving worker filed a lawsuit in US federal court against Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a US military contractor in Iraq, and its Jordanian sub-contractor, Daoud & Partners. The action was brought under federal trafficking law and the Alien Tort Claims Act and is based on, among other things, allegations of racketeering, trafficking, forced labour, slavery and false imprisonment.
The plaintiffs claimed that the 13 men were initially recruited in Nepal to work in hotels and restaurants in Amman, Jordan. Instead, they alleged that a Daoud & Partners representative seized their passports after they arrived in Jordan, and that they were later trafficked into Iraq to work at a US military facility. Twelve of the men were killed by insurgents en route to the worksite in Iraq. The 13th man, who travelled separately, was allegedly held in Iraq for fifteen months and forced to work in a warehouse under the supervision of KBR. The plaintiffs argued that Daoud, KBR and their co-conspirators were parties to a trafficking enterprise. They further alleged that both Daoud and KBR were responsible for the trafficking scheme – from the moment of recruiting the men in Nepal until their arrival in Iraq. In a statement issued by KBR in response to the suit, KBR said that its employees were expected to adhere to a company code of conduct and complete ethics training that includes information about human trafficking. In August 2013, the district court rejected some of the defendants' motions to dismiss, and ruled that the case may proceed to trial. Specifically, the court dismissed the Alien Tort Claims Act claims against the defendants, but it allowed the claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) against KBR to proceed. In January 2014, US District Judge Keith Ellison reversed his September ruling, finding that the families cannot proceed on the basis that the TVPRA (amended in 2008 to allow extraterritorial claims) could not be applied retroactively to 2004, when the incident occurred. In March 2015, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motions for rehearing and leave to amend the ACTA claim. The court found that the plaintiffs presented no new legal authority, and identified no error in law or fact. The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal. On 3 January 2017, a US court of appeals upheld the lower court's decision, ruling that alleged company's misconduct lacked a sufficient connection with the US.
This federal case followed an action brought in 2006 before an administrative court with jurisdiction over cases that involve workplace injuries at overseas military bases. This action was brought by nine of the victims’ families against Daoud and its insurance company – Continental Casualty Company. In April 2008, a judge in the U.S. Department of Labour’s Office of Administrative Law ruled that the men’s families were entitled to death benefits. The fate of the 12 Nepali men was also investigated by the Inspector General for the United States Department of Defense, who confirmed the facts relating to their death.
- "Legal Blow for Families of Slain Nepali Workers", Bonnie Barron, Courthouse News Service, 27 Aug 2013
- “Nepalese killed in Iraq in 2004: Light at the end of the tunnel”, Suresh Nath Neupane, Kathmandu Post, 20 Apr 2009
- “Cohen Milstein files suit against KBR for human trafficking”, Washington Business Journal, 27 Aug 2008
- “Families of Nepalese workers killed in Iraq sue KBR”, Reuters, 27 Aug 2008
- “D.C. attorneys win human trafficking case in Iraq”, Washington Business Journal, 16 Jul 2008
- KBR: Mission, Vision and Values
- Cohen Milstein: KBR Ordered to Stand Trial in Human Trafficking Case, 23 Aug 2013
- Cohen Milstein: Nepali Laborers
- EarthRights International and Center for Constitutional Rights: Amicus brief in support of appellants and reversal, 1 Oct 2015
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, 24 Mar 2015
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Jan 2014
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, et al - Memorandum and Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, 23 Aug 2013
- [PDF] Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. Daoud & Partners, KBR et al - Complaint, 27 Aug 2008
- US Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges : P.A. et al. v. Daoud & Partners c/o KBR, Inc. et al. - Decision & Order Granting Claimants' Motion for Summary Decision, 16 Apr 2008
All components of this story
Author: Jonathan Stempel, Reuters
A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday refused to hold KBR Inc (KBR.N) liable for alleged human trafficking, in connection with the 2004 kidnapping and murder by insurgents of 12 Nepali men being transported in Iraq to work for a subcontractor at a U.S. military base...[T]he 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a lower court judge's 2014 dismissal of civil claims against KBR...by surviving family members and a Nepali worker...Judge Edward Prado said dismissal was proper because KBR's alleged misconduct lacked a sufficient connection with the United States...Prado rejected claims that KBR's alleged misconduct could be deemed "domestic" under the federal Alien Tort Statute...because Al Asad fell under U.S. control, KBR conducted financial transactions through U.S. banks, and U.S.-based workers may have known of alleged abuses...Judge James Graves dissented. He found "much to support" the conclusion that claims over whether KBR engaged in human trafficking to fulfill its U.S. government contract to provide labor at Al Asad "touch and concern" the United States...
Amicus Curiae brief by EarthRights Intl. & Center for Constitutional Rights in support of KBR Nepali trafficking victims
Author: EarthRights International & Center for Constitutional Rights
“Ramchandra Adhikari et al v. KBR, et al - Amicus Curiae brief of EarthRights International and Center for Constitutional Rights in Support of Appellants and Reversal, US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit”, 1 Oct 2015
...This case involves allegations that U.S. corporations participated in the illegal trafficking of laborers to work on a U.S. military base in Iraq fulfilling Defendants’ contract with the U.S. Government…The district court dismissed Plaintiffs-Appellants’ ATS claims because it found them barred by Kiobel…The court concluded that the tortious conduct occurred outside the United States and that therefore the claims did not “touch and concern” the United States…Amici address only the question of whether ATS claims necessarily touch and concern the United States with sufficient force where the defendant alleged to have violated universally recognized human rights norms is a U.S. national. They do…Kiobel was a “foreign-cubed” case, where the Supreme Court was concerned about the legal and foreign policy implications of haling a foreign citizen into a U.S. court without any relationship between the case and the United States. None of those concerns apply where, as here, the defendant is a U.S. national...Accordingly, the Court should conclude that the ATS provides a federal forum for claims against a U.S. national…
When US firms abuse intl. human rights law, victims should be able to sue in US courts, says EarthRights International
Author: Zamira Djabarova, EarthRights International
“Trafficking Case Should be Simple: U.S. Corporations can be sued in U.S. Courts”, 14 Oct 2015
When a U.S. citizen…violates international human rights law, the victims of that abuse should be able to sue them in U.S. courts. That’s the simple version of ERI’s argument in an amicus curiae [brief]…[W]e took a stand in support of the plaintiffs and reversal of the lower court’s decision in Adhikari v. Daoud & Partners, a case about trafficking of workers…The Adhikari plaintiffs are suing under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows suits for violations of international law…[W]e argue in our brief, [that] claims against U.S. citizens (such as KBR) automatically satisfy [the touch and concern] test. This is true not only because it would only make sense given that as a U.S. corporation, KBR is subject to U.S. regulations and benefits from its protection (and therefore should also bear the scrutiny of U.S. courts). It is also true because the ATS was designed to ensure that the U.S. met its international obligations to provide remedies for victims of human rights abuses committed by its nationals…
Human Rights First & retired military leaders challenging dismissal of US lawsuit alleging KBR trafficked Nepali workers to Iraq
"Hold Military Contractor KBR Accountable for Deadly Trafficking Scheme", 24 Sep 2015
In 2004, thirteen Nepali laborers were offered jobs in a luxury hotel and restaurants in Amman, Jordan…But at the end of their long journeys, the workers found…a trafficking scheme that forced them into a war zone in Iraq, where they were sent to work for a U.S. military contractor…In 2008, the one surviving trafficked worker and the families of the twelve who were murdered sued KBR…The plaintiffs alleged multiple violations of U.S. law, including…the…Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”) and the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”)…[T]he district court…finally [ruled] in 2014 that neither the TVPRA nor the ATS could be applied outside of the United States. Human Rights First is working with a group of retired U.S. admirals and generals to…challeng[e] the district court’s decision. The retired military leaders argue that, in light of the transnational nature of trafficking, the legal framework in place at the time, and…the military’s own overt anti-slavery efforts, KBR and Daoud knew that they could not traffic with impunity.
Author: Carey L. Biron, MintPress News (USA)
A federal judge in Texas has...halted a...court battle brought by the families of 12 Nepalis killed while working for a U.S. military contractor in Iraq in 2004. The families...ask[ed] the courts to allow them to sue Kellogg, Brown & Root, the former subsidiary of the oil services company Halliburton...Judge Keith Ellison had said he would allow the case to go forward, ruling that it appeared to include genuine allegations of “forced labor or trafficking.” But last month,...[t]he judge stated...that a central piece of anti-trafficking legislation, passed in 2008, could not be retroactively applied to a crime that took place outside of the U.S. The decision has been viewed as a major victory for KBR, with the firm’s lawyer proclaiming that the judge “did get this right.” Other legal scholars disagree...with Ellison’s interpretation of a contentious recent U.S. Supreme Court decision weakening corporate liability outside of U.S. territory...
Author: Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Bloomberg News (USA)
KBR...won’t face a jury on human trafficking claims brought by families of Nepali workers killed while they were allegedly forced to work against their will at company sites in Iraq in 2004, a federal judge ruled…U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison in Houston reversed his September ruling that the families could proceed to trial…Ellison agreed in his order yesterday with KBR’s lawyers, who argued in court filings that a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidated his initial ruling allowing the lawsuit. In the earlier order, Ellison stated that Houston-based KBR could be tried on the forced-labor allegations because “defendants do not now, nor did they in 2004, have the right to traffic human beings at home or abroad.”...
- Related stories: KBR lawsuit (re human trafficking in Iraq) US judge rules families of Nepali workers cannot sue KBR over alleged human trafficking in Iraq
- Related in-depth areas: Latest Legal News
- Related companies: KBR
Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Welcome to the 11th issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. To assist all those following corporate legal accountability issues, we send this bulletin to highlight key developments, new cases profiled on our site, updates to existing profiles, and other news. Our Corporate Legal Accountability Portal is an online information hub providing resources for non- lawyers as well as lawyers – including victims, advocates, NGOs, businesspeople, lawyers bringing lawsuits against companies and lawyers defending companies. The portal provides impartial, concise information about lawsuits against companies in which human rights abuses are alleged – its aim is to demystify these lawsuits. Each case profile includes materials from both the plaintiffs and defendants, to the extent they are available...[Refers to African Rainbow Minerals, Alstom, Amesys (part of Bull), AngloGold Ashanti, Argor-Heraeus, BP, Bull, CACI, Chevron, Davao Fruits, Ford, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, HudBay Minerals, IBM, Kaweri (part of Neumann Gruppe), Koh Kong Sugar, Lapanday Agricultural Development, Nestlé, Neumann Gruppe, Texaco (part of Chevron), Titan Corporation (now L-3 Services, part of L-3 Communications), Veolia Environnement, Veolia Transport (part of Veolia Environnement)]
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[PDF] Businesses across the Middle East must put human rights above the bottom line - New report lifts the lid on the business practices of dozens of companies operating across the Middle East
Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
[Arabic and French versions below] Companies operating across the Middle East must uphold human rights according to a new report by an international human rights organisation. The new report, released today in Arabic, English and French by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre to mark Human Rights Day, looks at how Middle Eastern companies and international firms operating in the region across a range of sectors are meeting – and failing to meet – their responsibility to respect the human rights of workers and communities...
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Author: Compiled by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Welcome to our fifth PMSC Bulletin. To assist those interested in private military & security companies (PMSCs) and their impacts on human rights, we publish this bulletin semi-annually to highlight key developments reported by NGOs, governments, journalists and others including PMSCs themselves. Previous bulletins are available here. We also invite you to consult our website and Business, Conflict & Peace Portal, which provide more resources and information about PMSCs. If you would like us to consider including something in the next bulletin, know someone who would like to receive the bulletin, or wish to unsubscribe, please contact Irene Pietropaoli: pietropaoli(at)business-humanrights.org [Refers to Bicuar, Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, Teleservice, Endiama, BAE Systems, G4S, Eulen, MagForce, Tian Jin MyWay, Nikuv Intl. Projects, CACI, Blackwater, KBR, AlliedBarton, Servicios Especiales de Seguridad Privada, Bryant Security]
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- Related companies: AlliedBarton (part of Blackstone) BAE Systems Blackstone Blackwater CACI Endiama (Empresa Nacional de Diamantes de Angola) G4S Grupo Eulen ITM Mining KBR Nikuv International Projects Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (joint venture ITM Mining, Endiama & Lumanhe) Teleservice
Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Welcome to the 10th issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. To assist all those following corporate legal accountability issues, we send this bulletin to highlight key developments, new cases profiled on our site, updates to existing profiles, and other news. Our Corporate Legal Accountability Portal is an online information hub providing resources for non-lawyers as well as lawyers – including victims, advocates, NGOs, businesspeople, lawyers bringing lawsuits against companies and lawyers defending companies. The portal provides impartial, concise information about lawsuits against companies in which human rights abuses are alleged – its aim is to demystify these lawsuits. Each case profile includes materials from both the plaintiffs and defendants, to the extent they are available…This bulletin is now available in Spanish and French. [Refers to African Barrick Gold, Alstom, BP, CACI, Chevron, Coca-Cola, COMILOG (part of ERAMET), Daimler, Danzer, Dow Chemical, Drummond, ERAMET, Ford, HudBay Minerals, IBM, KBR, Ledesma, Mercedes-Benz (part of Daimler), Monterrico Metals, Nestlé, PA Child Care, Qosmos, Rio Tinto, Shell, Sinter Metal, SNCF, Texaco (part of Chevron), Thomson Safaris, Total, Union Carbide (part of Dow), Vedanta Resources, Veolia (part of Veolia Environnement), Veolia Environnement, Walmart]
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- Related in-depth areas: Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Update Latest Legal News Latest News on Pacific Business & Human Rights
- Related companies: African Barrick Gold (now Acacia) Alstom BP CACI Chevron Coca-Cola Compagnie Minière de l'Ogooué (COMILOG) (part of ERAMET) Daimler DaimlerChrysler (now Daimler) Danzer Dow Chemical Drummond ERAMET ExxonMobil Ford Hudbay Minerals KBR Mercedes-Benz (part of Daimler) Nestlé Qosmos Rio Tinto Royal Bank of Scotland Shell SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer) Texaco (part of Chevron) Total Union Carbide (part of Dow) Vedanta Resources Veolia (formerly Vivendi Environnement) Veolia Transport (now Transdev) Walmart