Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Eritrea: Government Accused of Human Rights Abuses

Reuters at The New York Times Africa  June 19, 2012

The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, on Monday accused Eritrea of carrying out torture and summary executions. Ms. Pillay told the United Nations Human Rights Council that there were 5,000 to 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea, which holds a strategic stretch of the Red Sea coast and has been ruled by a single party and president since independence from Ethiopia in 1993. “Credible sources indicate that violations of human rights include arbitrary detention, torture, summary executions, forced labor, forced conscription and restrictions to freedom of movement, expression, assembly and religion,” Ms. Pillay said. She said the Eritrean government had not responded to requests to discuss her concerns.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics, Safety and Security Issues, United Nations | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Has the UN learned lessons of Bosnian sex slavery revealed in Rachel Weisz film?

The Whistleblower is a shocking film that reveals how Balkan peacekeepers turned a blind eye to kidnapping, torture and rape. But these abuses still go on

“Those girls are whores of war. It happens.”

The Guardian  January 14, 2012

We do not see the torture inflicted on one girl for trying to flee her captors, but we see the tears of her fellow slaves forced to watch. We see the iron bar tossed on to the cellar floor when the punishment is over, and we know what has happened.

The Whistleblower spares you little. It is a film about that most depraved of crimes: trafficking women for enslaved sex, rape and even murder.

As a dramatised portrayal of reality, however, The Whistleblower is “a day at the beach compared to what happened in real life”, says its director, Larysa Kondracki. “We show what is just about permissible to show. We couldn’t possibly include the three-week desensitisation period, when they burn the girls in particular places. We couldn’t really capture the hopelessness of life these women are subjected to.”

Starring Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower, released tomorrow on DVD, is the most searing drama-documentary of recent years and has won many prizes. But more important than the accolades is that everything in the film is true. The film deals with enslavement and rape in Bosnia, not during wartime 20 years ago but during the peace. Worse, not only were the enslaved women’s “clients” soldiers and police officers – so too were the traffickers, protected at the top of the United Nations operation in Bosnia

Please read the entire story here

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Balkans, Civilian Contractors, DynCorp, Human Trafficking, Rape, United Nations | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eritrea: Free Political Prisoners 10 Years On – President Isaias in New York to Demand UN Respect His Rights, Denies Them to His People

“Instead of lobbying the UN, President Isaias should allow people to speak freely, to worship as they please, and to leave Eritrea if they want,” said Bekele. “Eritreans will continue to face prolonged, indefinite national service, repression, and torture unless President Isaias changes his abusive policies”

All Africa Human Rights Watch Washington DC   September 22, 2011

Ten years after President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea ordered the detention of 21 senior government members and journalists who criticized him, his government should release the detainees or reveal their fate, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. Eritrea should also open its jails to international monitors, Human Rights Watch said.

Isaias is visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly in an attempt to rehabilitate his country’s image even as his government labors under UN sanctions for its role in supporting the Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab.

In the past 10 years, Isaias has closed all independent media outlets and turned Eritrea into a country where arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance, and death are rife and where it is almost impossible to leave. The paper, “Eritrea: 10 Long Years, A Briefing on Eritrea’s Missing Political Prisoners,” outlines what is known about the political prisoners, none of whom has been seen by outsiders since being detained in September 2001.

“Eritrea is effectively a giant prison, and international pressure should continue on Eritrea until President Isaias frees political prisoners and restores the rule of law,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “To start with, President Isaias should end the inhumanity of prolonged secret, silent detention and allow family members and international monitors to see the prisoners.”

In mid-September 2001, Isaias ordered the arrest of 11 high government officials who had written open letters criticizing his rule. He also arrested 10 journalists who had published the letters and other information critical of him and his policies, and closed all independent newspapers.

The 20 men and one woman have never been seen again by anyone outside the penal system, including their families, lawyers, or prison monitoring groups. They have never been afforded a hearing; rather, all 21 were incarcerated in secret detention facilities in solitary confinement. According to former guards whose reports Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm, 10 of the 21 have died in prison and the remaining 11 are physically or mentally incapacitated and emaciated.

The 21 are the most prominent victims of Isaias’s denial of basic rights, but hundreds of thousands of others in the country of 5 million have been victimized during the past decade. The briefing paper recounts that thousands of Eritreans are incarcerated because they are suspected of not fully supporting the regime or have attempted to flee Eritrea’s compulsory and indefinite national service. They are given no access to a court and no means to appeal to any impartial body. Thousands more Eritreans are incarcerated because they are members of religious groups that the Eritrean government refuses to recognize as legitimate: Jehovah’s Witnesses, evangelical Christian churches, and reformist wings of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.

Please read the entire press release here

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DOJ Appeals Ruling In Torture Suit Against Rumsfeld

Blog of the Legal Times  August 26, 2011

The U.S. Justice Department wants a federal appeals court in Washington to overturn a judge’s ruling that said an American contractor detained in Iraq can sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for alleged abuses.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin this month ruled for the contractor, an American civilian and former Army veteran who provided translation services to the military in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. Gwin said Rumsfeld is not entitled to qualified immunity. The judge’s decision is here.

The contractor, whose name is confidential in the suit in Washington federal district court, “has a right to be free from conduct and conditions of confinement that shook the conscience,” Gwin said.

Gwin of Cleveland federal district court took over the case in January 2010 from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Gwin is sitting by designation in Washington to hear the suit, filed in 2008.

A Justice Department lawyer, James Whitman of the Civil Division’s torts branch, said in a court filing (PDF) this week that Rumsfeld is entitled to the interlocutory appeal because Gwin rejected Rumsfeld’s qualified immunity argument

Please read the entire post at the Blog of the Legal Times

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Department of Defense, Legal Jurisdictions, Pentagon | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abu Ghraib Inmates Lose U.S. High Court Bid to Sue Contractors

by Greg Stohr at Bloomberg News  June 27, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive a lawsuit that accused two military contractors of abusing inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, turning away an appeal by 26 onetime prisoners.

The inmates sought to sue CACI International Inc. (CACI), which helped interrogate prisoners at the facility, and Titan Corp., which provided translation services. Titan has since been renamed and is now part of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. (LLL)

The inmates, who were civilian detainees, said they were subjected to abuses by CACI and Titan employees including beatings, sexual humiliation, exposure to extreme temperatures and rape. In court papers, the inmates said some prisoners were tortured into unconsciousness and several were murdered.

Abu Ghraib became an international embarrassment for the U.S. in 2004, when photographs surfaced showing guards mistreating inmates.

Please read the entire report at Bloomberg News

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Government Contractor, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Detained American accused of stealing handcuffs claims torture

Chelsea Carter CNN  May 12, 2011

CNN)An American detained for more than two months in the United Arab Emirates faces up to seven years in prison for stealing police handcuffs, an allegation he says he only confessed to after being tortured.

A judge in Dubai is expected to hand down a verdict next week against Adam Foster, 30, of Burdett, New York, whose case has become the focal point of a grassroots letter-writing campaign via Facebook that calls for his release.

“It’s hard to be hopeful at this point,” Foster told CNN by telephone Thursday from Dubai, where he has been detained since his February 26 arrest. “I don’t want to think I’m going to be getting out of here in a few days and then find I have to stay for seven years.”

The UAE has charged Foster with theft of government property, possession of police paraphernalia and theft at night. If found guilty, he faces up to seven years in prison.

The U.S. State Department confirmed that Foster was detained. American consular officers met him on February 28 before UAE authorities released him on bail March 1.

Officials in the UAE did not respond to a CNN request for comment.

But investigators claim Foster stole a pair of official police handcuffs during questioning in an unrelated matter at a Dubai police station the night before was due to leave the city, according to his attorney, Yousuf Khalifa Hammad.

Foster has said it was a coincidence, saying he was brought in for questioning because he was in possession of a bottle of Korean rice wine — a parting gift from colleagues. He was released without charges.

Foster said he found the handcuffs a day earlier on the ground at a mall parking lot, about a mile and half from the police station where he was questioned.

“I was thinking ‘souvenir,'” Foster said. “They were lying on the ground. So I picked them up.”

Foster, who was on his way home after a six-week stint as a contractor for Dubai Energy Water Authority, was arrested after authorities found the handcuffs in his luggage during a routine security screening at the Dubai airport.

He said he was pulled off the plane, questioned and taken to a police station, where he was interrogated twice by two officers.

It was during that second round of questioning, after hours of maintaining his innocence, he said he was beaten and forced to confess.

Foster claims he was told to take off his shoes and socks, and handcuffed to a chair while one of two officers used a coil to whip the bottom of his feet. He also said he was punched in the face.

“The pain was unimaginable,” Foster said. “So I told them I did it. I told them ‘I’m sorry.'”

Foster said he then signed a confession written in Arabic.

“I have no idea what it said,” he said.

Hammad said there is little recourse for Foster as there were no witnesses to the alleged torture, though court documents show he initially said he was innocent, confessed and then recanted.

“It is up to the judge to consider this,” Hammad said.

Foster said he recanted his confession after he was released from jail. He said he did not tell U.S. consular officials who met with him while he was in jail nor did he file a complaint against the officer in the case because he was afraid he would be beaten again if he professed his innocence.

Robert H. Arbuckle, a public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, declined to comment because Foster had not authorized consular officials to act on his behalf with the media.

The U.S. Embassy strongly advises travelers to the UAE and those transiting through the country to avoid carrying any type of law enforcement or security item, including weapons, body armor and handcuffs, according to its web site. It warns that people caught carrying such items will face criminal charges.

“I don’t understand how they can do this?” Foster said. “How can they put me away for seven years with no proof whatsoever?”

Foster has been living at a Dubai hotel since authorities released him on March 1. In lieu of bail, UAE officials confiscated his passport to ensure he would appear in court, Hammad said.

Nearly 1,000 people have appealed to Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, and Jeffrey D. Feltman of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to intervene on Foster’s behalf.

“I urge you to do everything in your power to ensure Adam is treated fairly on May 19 with consideration of his illegal torture and coerced confession,” according to a sample letter posted on Facebook. “Americans all over the world are counting on you and the State Department to speak boldly in opposition to human rights violations.”

Hundreds of others have posted messages of support.

“Imagine yourself in his place for about five minutes. Then do something to help him,” urges Facebook user Bruce Varner.

Foster said he was hanging on to hope that the letters from friends and family might make a difference in his case.

Last year, UAE authorities detained Nicholas Moody of Nevada for more than three months on charges of possessing weapons accessories — parts that could accompany a gun, though no firearm itself.

Moody was arrested during an 18-hour layover in Abu Dhabi while heading back from Iraq. A judge later dismissed the charges.

Please see the original here

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Investigation into CIA contractors sheds light on agency’s torture policy

Contractors strike deal for CIA-funded legal aid


A federal inquiry into two CIA contractors is providing further insight into the US intelligence agency’s use of torture tactics in interrogations and its network of secret prisons during the height of the war on terror.

Federal prosecutor John Durham is leading an investigation into whether any operatives or contractors for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) accused of using torture on terror suspects in secret detention centers around the world should face criminal charges. If found guilty, CIA operatives and their civilian counterparts could not only feel the full weight of the US justice system, but be tried under international law as well.

“The use of torture is forbidden under US domestic law,” Anthony Dworkin, a senior policy fellow at the European Council for Foreign Relations working on human rights, international justice and international humanitarian law, told Deutsche Welle.

In addition, the Torture Act criminalizes any act of torture carried out by a US citizen overseas. During armed conflict, the use of torture as well as cruel and inhuman treatment are violations of the law of armed conflict; in such cases they can be prosecuted in the United States under the War Crimes Act.

“Torture in armed conflict is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and torture committed as part of a widespread or systematic campaign might be a crime against humanity,” Dworkin said. “In these cases, it could be prosecuted before an international court or tribunal if it has the jurisdiction.”

Please read  the entire story here

January 25, 2011 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Government Contractor, Legal Jurisdictions | , , | Leave a comment

U.S. views sought in Iraqi contractor torture case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) The Supreme Court on Monday asked the U.S. government for its views about a lawsuit claiming that employees of two defense contractors took part in the torture and abuse of Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

A group of Iraqis appealed to the high court seeking to reinstate their lawsuit against CACI International Inc, which provided interrogators at Abu Ghraib, and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc’s Titan unit, which provided interpreters to the U.S. military.

The lawsuit was filed in 2004 on behalf of the Iraqis who say they or their relatives had been tortured or mistreated while detained by the U.S. military at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. They said contractor employees participated in the abuse, a claim denied by the companies.

A federal appeals court dismissed the lawsuit because the companies had immunity as government contractors. It also said the suit was pre-empted by U.S. national security and foreign policy law.

In appealing to the Supreme Court, attorneys for the Iraqis argued that victims of torture may proceed with lawsuits against private parties, and that corporations can be held liable for torture under international law.

But attorneys for CACI and L-3 opposed the appeal, said the appeals court’s rejection of the claims was correct, and argued that further review of the case by the Supreme Court was unwarranted.

On the first day of its new term, the Supreme Court issued a brief order asking the Justice Department to file a brief in the case expressing the views of the U.S. government.  Original here

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Iraq | , , , , , , | 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

Joshua Munns’, Jon Cote’s, John Young’s families sues State Dept

Anderson man’s family sues over his torture death in Iraq

“Basically, the mentality of the Secretary of State seems to be that if the United States loses a member of the United States military, then the loss becomes a relevant statistic on the ‘War on Terror,’

but when the United States loses a contractor . . . then there is no accounting for the loss of life. . . .

As a result, the true cost in lives and money of the ‘War on Terror’ is understated.”

The father and stepmother of an Anderson private security contractor who was abducted in Iraq, held for ransom and later tortured and beheaded have sued officials at the U.S. State Department alleging that the nation’s policy of not negotiating with terrorists hindered their efforts to save their son.

In a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. Eastern District Court in Sacramento, Mark and Christa Munns allege that State Department officials kept them in the dark about the months-long kidnapping investigation and then blocked the family’s efforts to negotiate with the kidnappers.

Joshua Munns, along with four other private security contractors, was taken hostage on Nov. 16, 2006 after the convoy they were guarding was ambushed by a group of masked and armed men at a fake checkpoint near the southern Iraqi city of Safwan.

Before becoming a contractor, Munns, 23, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2001 to 2005 and served two tours in Iraq as a scout and sniper.

The lawsuit also questions United States government’s definition of the word “terrorist” and the “War on Terror,” and is scathingly critical of the nation’s reliance on private security contractors to fight America’s battles and then refusing to support them when they’re kidnapped, injured or killed.

“Basically, the mentality of the Secretary of State seems to be that if the United States loses a member of the United States military, then the loss becomes a relevant statistic on the ‘War on Terror,’ but when the United States loses a contractor . . . then there is no accounting for the loss of life. . . . As a result, the true cost in lives and money of the ‘War on Terror’ is understated.”

Mark and Christa Munns filed the suit with the family members of two of the other abducted contractors, John Cote and John Young.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Jennifer Foo, the families’ State Department liaison during the kidnapping investigation, were named in the suit as codefendants.

Clinton was appointed to Secretary of State after Barack Obama was elected president. During the Munns hostage situation, Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State under President Bush.

The suit demands the government pay the families their children’s life insurance benefits, since the contractors were working for the government at the time.

Crescent Security, the firm for which Munns and the other contracters worked, hasn’t paid any death benefits to the families, the suit alleges.

The suit also seeks an injunction stopping the U.S. government from giving private military forces “complete impunity” to operate free from U.S. and Iraqi laws. The suit says that is a violation of the U.S. Constitution and led to “a free fire zone” in which contractors were free to open fire without repercussions.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Contractor Casualties, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment