Alexandria, VA – Four Iraqi victims tortured at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison urged a federal district court to reject attempts by private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) to have their lawsuit for the contractor’s role in their torture dismissed. Attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) argued the case on behalf of their clients.
US 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 US corporation involved in torture and other war crimes in US courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). 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. The district court rejected CACI’s initial effort to have the case dismissed as a political question in 2009.
“CACI has made repeated efforts to dismiss this case and seek impunity for torture,” said CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy, who argued today. “Each time, their argument focuses not on the torture to which our plaintiffs were subjected, but on why this private corporation should receive immunity for grave international law violations. Our clients deserve to have the court – and the American public – hear their painful stories. And they deserve a measure of justice for what was done to them.”
Al Shimari v. CACI International Inc. was filed in 2008 on behalf of four Iraqi men who were tortured at the so-called hard site at Abu Ghraib. The men were subjected to electric shocks, sexual violence, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food, and water. US military investigators concluded that several CACI interrogators conspired with US soldiers (who were later court martialed) to have the “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” committed against detainees in order to “soften” them up for interrogations.
The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) allows federal courts to hear suits by aliens for abuses committed abroad “in violation of the law of nations.” Pioneered by the Center for Constitutional Rights as an avenue for accountability for human rights abuses in 1980, the ATS has been used to hold both individuals and corporations accountable for grave human rights violations.
Shereef Akeel & Valentine, P.C. in Troy, Michigan and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LP are co-counsel.