March 18, 2014, Richmond, VA– A month before the 10-year anniversary of the Abu Ghraib torture photos, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel urged a federal appeals court to re-open a case brought by four Iraqi Abu Ghraib torture victims against private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. The men were subjected to electric shocks, sexual violence, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food, and water. U.S. military investigators concluded that several CACI interrogators directed U.S. soldiers (who were later court martialed) to commit "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of Abu Ghraib detainees in order to "soften" them up for interrogations.
Said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy, "U.S. courts must at last provide a remedy for the victims of torture at Abu Ghraib. CACI indisputably played a key role in those atrocities, and it is time for them to be held accountable. The lower court's ruling creates lawless spaces where corporations can commit torture and war crimes and then find safe haven in the United States. That's a ruling that should not stand."
A district court judge dismissed the case in June by narrowly interpreting the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Shell/Royal Dutch Petroleum to foreclose Alien Tort Statute (ATS) claims arising in Iraq, even though CACI is a U.S. corporation contracted by the U.S. government, it conspired with U.S. soldiers who were punished in U.S. courts martial, and the torture and war crimes occurred at a time when the United States exercised jurisdiction and control over both Iraq and Abu Ghraib prison. CCR attorneys cited the Supreme Court holding in Kiobel that ATS claims could go forward in cases that "touch and concern" the United States "with sufficient force" and argued that this case, implicating an American corporation for acts condemned at the highest levels of the U.S. government, falls squarely within the that standard.
In dismissing the torture survivors' claims, the district judge did not suggest that their allegations of torture and conspiracy involving CACI were unfounded.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs also urged the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today to reinstate state law claims against CACI and to reject CACI's request that the case be dismissed because it involves a "political question."
The case is Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc.
Shereef Akeel & Valentine, P.C. in Troy, Michigan, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LP, and George Brent Mickum IV are co-counsel.