The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled (PDF) Oct. 21 that former detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison may continue their torture lawsuit against civilian military contractors. Four former prisoners allege that they were subjected to various forms of torture at the hands of CACI Premier Technology contractors. The case had previously been dismissed under the "political question doctrine," but the court held the doctrine does not prevent the judiciary from deciding the case.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled (PDF) July 1 that the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over a case of alleged torture in the Abu Ghraib prison because the alleged abuses occurred in Iraq. The case was brought in 2009 by four plaintiffs against military contractor CACI International Inc, accusing the company of crimes against humanity, sexual assault, torture and other violations at Abu Ghraib prison. Applying the fact-based inquiry articulated by the US Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, the court held that the plaintiffs' claims "touch and concern" the territory of the US with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute. The court did not reach the conclusion, however, that the issue was not a political question and thus remanded the case to the district court to undertake factual development of the record to make that determination.
The Iraqi Justice Ministry on April 15 temporarily closed Abu Ghraib prison due to security concerns. Reports indicate that Iraqi authorities are concerned about the growing power of a Sunni-backed insurgency within the Anbar province, in close proximity to the prison grounds. A government official reportedly announced wednesday, however, that the prison's closure was temporary until security issues can be resolved. In the meantime, the government has transferred approximately 2,400 inmates to other high security prisons throughout the nation.
At least 40 were killed in clashes that raged overnight after militants launched coordinated attacks on two Iraqi prisons July 22. The attacks on the prisons at Taji and Abu Ghraib, both outside Baghdad, included car bombs and mortar strikes on the front gates before gunmen assaulted the guards. At least 500 prisoners escaped. (AFP, July 22) A coordinated wave of seven car bombs tore through bustling streets July 20 in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad, leaving some 45 dead. (AP, July 20) On July 19, a bomb blast at a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers in the town of Wajihiya, Diyala, killed 20 people. Violence has killed at least 200 in Iraq since the start of Ramadan. (Rudaw, July 22; RFE/RL, July 19)
A military contractor that was accused in a lawsuit by former detainees of the Abu Ghraib prison of conspiring to commit torture has paid $5.28 million to detainees held at the prison and other US detention centers in Iraq. The detainees filed suit against two military defense contractors in federal court in 2008 for alleged torture occurring over a period of four years. The cases against CACI International Inc.and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc were dismissed in September 2011 on the grounds that the companies have immunity as government contractors. A 14-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled 12-2 in May that the dismissal was premature. L-3 Communications Holdings Inc settled the dispute and each of the former detainees who were parties to the lawsuit received a portion of the settlement. The case against CACI is likely to go to trial this summer.
US Attorney General Eric Holder announced Aug. 30 that the Department of Justice would close its investigation into the CIA's alleged torture and abuse of detainees, with no criminal charges to be brought as a result of the three-year inquiry. In June 2011 Holder accepted the recommendation of Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) John Durham to open full criminal investigations into the deaths of two individuals while in US custody at overseas locations. The recommendation came during a criminal investigation by Durham that began in August 2009, under which he conducted an inquiry into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. The investigation centered primarily on whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators and whether such techniques could constitute statutory violations of torture.