Abu Ghraib lawsuits against CACI, Titan (now L-3)

Prison cell with bedOn 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.

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.

- "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

- 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 [co-counsel for the plaintiffs]:
- "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 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

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21 October 2016

Al Shimari, et al. v. CACI

Author: US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

[full text of the opinion]

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21 October 2016

Appeals Court Revives Lawsuit by Abu Ghraib Inmates

Author: Matthew Barakat, Associated Press

A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a lawsuit filed by four former inmates of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, who say they were tortured by civilian military contractors...

...The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled unanimously that any unlawful acts committed by contractors could be subject to judicial scrutiny, even if they were doing so under the direct control of the military...

...The inmates say they were tortured during interrogations led by civilian contractors from Arlington-based CACI Premier Technology, Inc.

CACI has long denied wrongdoing. On Friday, the company said in a statement: "We'll proceed with our expectation unchanged: exoneration for CACI. Nothing in today's decision changes our view of the ultimate outcome."

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21 October 2016

Appellate Court Reinstates Abu Ghraib Torture Lawsuit Against Private Military Contractor

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights

...A panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) for the corporation’s role in torture and other inhumane treatment at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. A lower court had dismissed the case, ruling that CACI’s responsibility for its established role in the torture was a “political question” to be left to the discretion of the political branches and unreviewable by the courts, and that a “cloud of ambiguity” surrounds the definition of torture...

...As the concurring judge emphasized, “It is beyond the power of even the President to declare [torture] lawful…. The determination of specific violations of law is constitutionally committed to the courts, even if that law touches military affairs.” The court concluded, “the military cannot lawfully exercise its authority by directing a contractor to engage in unlawful activity.”...


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16 May 2016

US appeals court examines question of responsibility for torture in case by Abu Ghraib victims

Author: Larry O'Dell, Associated Press

"U.S. Court Grapples with Abu Ghraib Torture Question: Who Was Responsible—the Torturers or U.S. Military?", 13 May 2016

A federal appeals court on Thursday explored the question of who was in charge, the U.S. military or civilian interrogators, when four former Iraqi detainees claim they were tortured at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. An attorney for the former detainees urged a three-judge panel…to reinstate their lawsuit against a military contractor, arguing that its employees took advantage of an "absence of command presence" and ordered soldiers to abuse the men to soften them up for questioning. "The plaintiffs in no way seek to question military judgment," said Baher Azmy, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents the detainees. John F. O'Connor, an attorney for the military contractor, said this is the first injury lawsuit he has seen that does not go after the people who actually inflicted the injuries — in this case, the soldiers, including some who were court-martialed.

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13 May 2016

USA: The current state of Alien Tort litigation in the business & human rights context

Author: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer (USA)

"The Global Lawyer: The 'Zombie' Alien Tort, Three Years After Kiobel", 12 May 2016

When the U.S. Supreme Court restricted the reach of the Alien Tort Statute in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, I wrote that it had created a "zombie doctrine,” leaving the corporate alien tort not quite alive and not quite dead. Three years later, the zombie is looking rather spry. On Thursday the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral argument in an alien tort case accusing a military contractor of torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. The case…was dismissed…on political question grounds after the Fourth Circuit had refused to dismiss it under Kiobel. Two weeks ago…, a different judge declined to dismiss the case against the psychologists who designed the "black site" interrogation program on either Kiobel or political question grounds…The Supreme Court has passed on the chance to revisit Kiobel at least twice…Most alien tort cases will continue to be blocked by defenses like justiciability or forum non conveniens…Prudent plaintiffs lawyers will develop strategies under state law, or under acts designed to combat terror, torture, or human trafficking. I stand by my point that the Alien Tort Statute requires sympathetic interpretation.


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11 May 2016

US court must reject lawlessness of torture in Abu Ghraib case against CACI, says former general counsel for US Navy

Author: Alberto Mora, senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School & former general counsel of US Navy in Guardian (UK)

"Abu Ghraib prisoners deserve, finally, their day in court", 11 May 2015

Twelve years ago American citizens and the rest of the world were rocked by the graphic photographs of the sexual and physical torture at Abu Ghraib. Once seen, the images are impossible to forget…And, in almost every picture, the guards, looking on with a smirk. As general counsel to the navy at that time, and an opponent of the Bush administration’s use and rationalization of torture and inhumane treatment against detainees, I watched Dick Cheney, George Tenet and others look on the laws that make torture unlawful with that same smirk…Do we want our American courts to uphold this lawlessness?...On 12 May, the fourth circuit court of appeals…will hear oral argument in Al Shimari v CACI, an appeal froma civil case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Abu Ghraib victims against a US-based government contractor. The outcome of the appeal will determine whether the case will be heard or dismissed without trial. And a trial would decide whether the victims obtain compensation for their injuries and, no less important, a measure of respect from the hands of American justice. 

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29 September 2015

Constitutional Scholars, Military Officers, Human Rights Groups File Briefs in Support of Abu Ghraib Victims Suing Corporation for Torture

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights (USA)

Last evening, six amicus briefs were filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of four men suing private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) for the company’s role in torturing and otherwise seriously mistreating  them at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The briefs were filed by Alberto J. Mora, former General Counsel of the United States Navy, who led efforts within the Defense Department to oppose Bush administration legal theories sanctioning torture and to end unlawful interrogation techniques at Guantánamo; constitutional scholars; prominent human rights organizations; the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture; survivors of human rights violations; and retired military generals, admirals, and other officers.

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28 September 2015

Legal Experts Try To Reignite Iraqis' Suit Against Torture Facility Contractor

Author: Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept (USA)

A United Nations official, legal scholars, and human rights activists are expected to file friend-of-the-court briefs today supporting a lawsuit in which four Iraqi men allege military contractor CACI International orchestrated their torture at Abu Ghraib. The amicus briefs will include one by Alberto Mora, former Navy General Counsel during the Bush era and a longtime opponent of that administration’s torture policies. Directed at the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the briefs support reviving a case dismissed by a Virginia district court this past June. The case dates to 2008, when lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on behalf of the four men, alleging that CACI employees ordered soldiers to “ soften up” detainees for interrogations…CACI did not respond to requests for comment.

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22 September 2015

Abu Ghraib Survivors Appeal Immunity for Corporation Involved in Torture

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights

[T]he Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) for the company’s role in the torture and other abuse of four Iraqi men at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison’s so-called “hard site.”  A federal judge dismissed the case in June, ruling that even though U.S. military investigators concluded that several CACI interrogators conspired with U.S. soldiers (who were later court martialed) to “soften” detainees for interrogations and which contributed to “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses,” CACI’s responsibility for its role in the torture is a “political question” unreviewable by the courts. “Torture is not a political question, it is a legal question,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy. 

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21 September 2015

[PDF] Al-Shimari, et al. v. CACI Premier Technology, et al. - Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellants

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights

Plaintiffs are four Iraqi civilians who were tortured and otherwise seriously abused while detained at Abu Ghraib prison, before their eventual release without charge. Plaintiffs…sued CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (“CACI”), a corporation hired by the U.S. government to provide interrogation services, for conspiring with low-level U.S. military personnel to torture and abuse detainees at the Abu Ghraib “Hard Site” in 2003-2004. A number of CACI’s co-conspirators…who provided testimony in this case implicating CACI, were convicted by U.S. courts martial for their role in abusing detainees. Several military investigations attributed responsibility to CACI employees for directing and participating in abuses at Abu Ghraib.

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