Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

U.S. Government Upholds Accountability for Contractors Who Torture

Human Rights First  January 27, 2011

Today, the U.S. government exercised moral leadership when it argued before a full panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that private military contractors who commit torture should not be immune from civil suits.

The companion cases—Al Shimari v.CACI and Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla—were brought by 76 Iraqis who allege they were tortured and abused by U.S. private military contractors at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. Among the alleged heinous acts: electric shocks, repeated brutal beatings, sleep and sensory deprivation, forced nudity, stress positions, sexual assault, mock executions, humiliation, hooding, isolated detention, and prolonged hanging by the limbs.

CACI International, Inc. and L-3 Services, Inc.—contracted to provide interrogation and interpretation services at Abu Ghraib—argued that they should be immune from civil suit. They relied on a “battlefield preemption” theory created by the D.C. Circuit in Saleh v. Titan, which held that where a civilian contractor engages in combat activities under the command of the military, a tort claim arising out of the contractor’s engagement is preempted.

On September 21, 2011, a 2-1 majority of the Fourth Circuit panel adopted that position, but in November the ruling was vacated so that a full panel could hear the case. Today, the full panel heard oral arguments from both parties as well as the U.S. government, which was invited by the Court to express its views.

In its brief, the United States says it has “significant federal interests at stake: ensuring that state-law tort litigation does not lead to second-guessing military judgments, protecting the primacy of existing tools for the government to regulate the conduct of contractors working on behalf of the United States (especially where civilian contractors work alongside service members in the military’s conduct of combat-related activities), and ensuring that military detention operations are conducted in a manner consistent with humane treatment obligations and the laws of war, and ensuring that contractors are held accountable for their conduct by appropriate means.” (emphasis added).

Taking all its interests into account, the U.S. government concludes that in circumstances where contractors have committed torture, they should not be immune from civil suits. By taking this position, not only does the United States meet its international human rights and law of war obligations but also advances its own interests. Specifically, it protects U.S. troops and civilians accompanying them abroad and bolsters national security.

Read Human Rights First’s amicus brief on Al Shimari v.CACI and Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla, and the letter HRF sent to the U.S. government’s Solicitor General regarding these cases.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraqis’ Torture Case Against L-3 Services Proceeds

WASHINGTON, July 30 /PRNewswire/ — A group of 72 Iraqi citizens who allege they were tortured while imprisoned at detention facilities across Iraq can continue with their lawsuit against military contractor L-3 Services, Inc. and a former employee, a federal judge in Maryland ruled Thursday.

In a 92-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Peter J. Messitte denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the Iraqis’ federal and state court claims. He wrote, “On the facts alleged, Defendants’ actions arguably violated the laws of war such that they are not immune from suit under the laws of war.” The court also rejected claims of government contractor immunity defense.

“During wartime,” the Court wrote, “‘many things are lawful in that season, which would not be permitted in a time of peace.’ Some actions, however, have been deemed so repulsive to mankind, or so disconnected from prosecuting and winning a war, that they are universally condemned. The law of war attempts to rein in these behaviors. …One such universally recognized rule is that torture is prohibited.”

The former detainees, all of whom were released without charge, are represented by Susan L. Burke, of Burke PLLC in Washington, D.C.; Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Shereef Akeel, of Akeel & Valentine, PLC in Troy, Mich.

Susan Burke, of Burke PLLC, stated, “With the Court’s ruling, these innocent men are a step closer to completing the true history of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. These men were senselessly tortured by a company that profited from their misery. They came to U.S. courts because our laws, as they have for generations, allow their claims to be heard here.”

Katherine Gallagher, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, “This thoughtful and thorough decision makes it crystal clear that when corporations, including those which contract with the government, engage in conduct that it universally condemned, they can be held accountable for their illegal acts. The court rightly found that the defendants’ status as a contractor cannot shield claims of war crimes and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment from review.”

The lawsuit alleges that L-3 employees, including Adel Nakhla, a U.S. citizen born in Egypt, tortured and otherwise physically and mentally abused the detainees who were arrested by coalition forces and held for up to four years between July 2003 and May 2008 at various detention facilities in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib.  See the entire press release here

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment