Federal appeals court revives lawsuits against Abu Ghraib contractors

[JURIST] A 14-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] ruled 12-2 [opinion, PDF] Friday that the earlier dismissal [JURIST report] of lawsuits against two Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] contractors on the grounds that they have immunity as government contractors was premature. The court sent the cases against CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. [corporate websites] back to the district court for fact-specific scrutiny to determine the validity of their immunity claims. According to the en banc decision of the appeals court, the case must be remanded because, "[t]he appellants are requesting immunity in a context that has been heretofore unexplored. These are not disputes in which facts that might be material to the ultimate issue have been conclusively identified." Prior to the decision of the appeals court, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filled an amicus brief [text, PDF] claiming that torture claims are not subject to immunity and that the case should be remanded to the district court.

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit dismissed the claims [JURIST report] against CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. [opinions, PDF] September, holding that federal law protecting civilian contractors acting under the control of the US military in a combat situation preempted the plaintiffs' tort claims based in state law. US military personnel have also been accused of torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Army Spc. Charles Graner [JURIST news archive], the convicted ringleader of abuses committed at the prison, was released [JURIST report] last August for good behavior after serving more than six-and-a-half years of his 10-year sentence. Graner was convicted [JURIST report] in 2005 of conspiracy, assault, maltreating prisoners, dereliction of duty and committing indecent acts and received the longest sentence of the six others involved in the abuses. In June, the DOJ initiated a grand jury investigation [JURIST report] into the torture and death of a detainee at Abu Ghraib. Manadel Al-Jamadi was captured [JURIST report] by US Navy SEALs in 2003 and held in Abu Ghraib as a "ghost detainee," or unregistered prisoner, for his suspected involvement in the bombing of a Red Cross center in Baghdad that killed 12 people. The US military has never revealed the exact circumstances of his death, which was ruled a homicide [JURIST report]. Reports show he died while suspended by his wrists, which were handcuffed behind his back.

 

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