Judge rejects military contractor’s effort to toss out Abu Ghraib torture lawsuit

Aug 1, 2023, 12:41 PM | Updated: 1:56 pm

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — A federal judge has again refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former Abu Ghraib inmates against a military contractor they accuse of being complicit in torture at the infamous Iraqi prison.

The horrific mistreatment of prisoners there two decades ago sparked international outrage when photos became public of smiling U.S. soldiers posing in front of abused prisoners.

Virginia-based CACI, which supplied interrogators at the prison, has long denied that it engaged in torture, and has tried more than a dozen times to have the lawsuit dismissed. The case was originally filed in 2008 and still has not gone to trial.

The most recent effort to dismiss the case focused on a 2021 Supreme Court case that restricted companies’ international liability. In that case, the high court tossed out a lawsuit against a subsidiary of chocolate maker Nestle after it was accused of complicity in child slavery on African cocoa farms.

CACI argued that the Nestle case is one of several in recent years in which the Supreme Court has narrowed the scope of the Alien Tort Statute, an 18th-century law under which the plaintiffs filed their lawsuit.

The opinion Monday by U.S. Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia, is currently under seal; only her order rejecting CACI’s motion is public. But at an earlier hearing, the judge told CACI’s lawyers that she believed they were overstating the significance of the Nestle case.

Baher Azmy, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, the law firm representing the Abu Ghraib plaintiffs, declined to discuss the opinion in detail because it was under seal. But he said Brinkema reiterated her view that “the law didn’t change as radically as CACI suggests.”

In a previous hearing, Brinkema said there is evidence implicating CACI in the torture regime at Abu Ghraib, including an email from a CACI employee assigned to Abu Ghraib that she described as a potential “smoking gun.”

The email, according to Brinkema, was sent by a CACI employee to his boss outlining abuses he had witnessed. The employee apparently resigned in protest, the judge said.

Brinkema said she was “amazed” that no one at CACI seemed to follow up on the employee’s concerns.

CACI lawyers have disputed that the email, which is not publicly available, is incriminating.

CACI has denied that any of its employees engaged in or sanctioned torture. And the three inmates who filed the suit acknowledge that they were never directly assaulted or tortured by any CACI employees.

But the lawsuit alleges that CACI was complicit and aided and abetted the torture by setting up the conditions under which soldiers brutalized inmates.

CACI’s legal arguments are just the most recent in a string of challenges to the lawsuit.

Earlier, CACI argued that because it was working at the U.S. government’s behest, it had immunity from a lawsuit just as the government would enjoy immunity. But Brinkema ruled that when it comes to fundamental violations of international norms like those depicted at Abu Ghraib, the government enjoys no immunity, and neither does a government contractor.

A status hearing is now set for September. Azmy said he is confident the case will go to trial, even after 15 years of delay.

In a written statement, one of the plaintiffs who says he was tortured at Abu Ghraib also expressed optimism.

“I have stayed patient and hopeful during the two years we have waited for this decision — and throughout the nearly two decades since I was abused at Abu Ghraib — that one day I would achieve justice and accountability in a U.S. court,” said plaintiff Salah Al-Ejaili, who now lives in Sweden.

In the lawsuit, Al-Ejaili alleges that he was beaten, left naked for extended periods of time, threatened with dogs and forced to wear women’s underwear, among other abuses.

A CACI spokeswoman, Lorraine Corcoran, declined to comment Monday.

In 2013, a different contractor agreed to pay $5.28 million to 71 former Abu Ghraib inmates.


For more AP coverage of Iraq: https://apnews.com/hub/iraq

United States News

Tupac Shakur, left, and Death Row Records founder Marion "Suge" Knight attend a voter registration ...

Associated Press

Witness charged with murder in 1996 shooting death of rapper Tupac Shakur

One of the last living witnesses to the fatal drive-by shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas was charged with murder Friday in the 1996 killing.

30 minutes ago

Associated Press

A child sex abuse suspect kills himself after wounding marshals trying to arrest him, police say

IRMO, S.C. (AP) — A man wanted by police for child sex abuse crimes shot and killed himself Friday after wounding two federal marshals trying to arrest him at a South Carolina hotel, investigators said. A special team of U.S. Marshals was trying to arrest George Curtis at an extended stay hotel near Columbia when […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Baltimore Archdiocese says it will file for bankruptcy before new law on abuse lawsuits takes effect

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Friday that it filed for Chapter 11 reorganization days before a new state law goes into effect removing the statute of limitations on child sex abuse charges and allowing victims to sue their abusers decades after the fact. The step will “allow the archdiocese to equitably compensate […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Jeffrey Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division...

Associated Press

Ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark can’t move Georgia case to federal court, a judge says

ATLANTA (AP) — A judge on Friday rejected a request by former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to move the Georgia election subversion charges against him from state court to federal court. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said he was making no ruling on the merits of the charges against Clark, but he concluded that […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Navy to start random testing of SEALs, special warfare troops for performance-enhancing drugs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Navy will begin randomly testing its special operations forces for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs beginning in November, taking a groundbreaking step that military leaders have long resisted. Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, announced the new program Friday in a message to his force, calling it […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Iowa book ban prompts disclaimers on Little Free Library exchanges

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — State restrictions on books that can be made available to Iowa students have prompted some Des Moines-area school districts to post disclaimers on Little Free Libraries. Earlier this year the Iowa Legislature approved a law that bans books that describe sex acts from libraries and classrooms, forcing school districts […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.



At Ability360, every day is Independence Day

With 100 different programs and services, more than 1,500 non-medically based home care staff, a world-renowned Sports & Fitness Center and over 15,000 people with disabilities served annually, across all ages and demographics, Ability360 is a nationwide leader in the disability community.



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]

Judge rejects military contractor’s effort to toss out Abu Ghraib torture lawsuit