Abu Ghraib lawsuits against CACI, Titan (now L-3)
Plaintiffs are a group of Iraqis who are former prisoners detained at Abu Ghraib. They filed suit in US court under the Alien Tort Claims Act alleging the companies operating Abu Ghraib participated in torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Defendants allege the court lacks jurisdiction because the crimes were committed outside of the US. The case is ongoing.
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.
On 23 August 2019, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down CACI's attempt to invoke sovereign immunity that would prevent it from being sued.
On 28 June 2021, the US Supreme Court declined to hear CACI’s appeal of a 2019 lower court’s decision. A month later, CACI moved to dismsiss the case on the basis of the Supreme Court's decision in Nestlé v. Doe , arguing that the ruling makes it clear that it cannot be held liable for abuses that occurred abroad.
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.
-US Supreme Court rejects contractor’s Abu Ghraib torture appeal, Reuters, 28 Jun 2021
- "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 (CCR) [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 court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, Order Dismissing Appeal, 23 Aug 20219
- 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