[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled Friday that the Department of Defense (DOD) [official websites] must release photographs [order, PDF] requested by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [official website] request for images depicting the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. Judge Alvin Hellerstein found that the legal certification filed in 2012 by then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was inadequate, and that the government has failed to remedy the shortcomings of the certificate. The order is stayed for 60 days so that the DOD’s Solicitor General may make a determination regarding appeal.
Allegations of prisoner abuse and torture [JURIST backgrounder] have been levied against the department and its contractors for several years. In July the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the district court erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction [JURIST report] over a case of alleged torture in the Abu Ghraib prison because the alleged abuses occurred in Iraq. A military contractor that was accused of conspiring to torture detainees in a lawsuit by former detainees of Abu Ghraib has paid $5.28 million to former detainees [JURIST report] held at the prison and other US detention centers in Iraq. A 14-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit ruled 12-2 in 2012 that the earlier dismissal of lawsuits against two Abu Ghraib contractors on the grounds that they have immunity as government contractors was premature [JURIST reports]. Other federal agencies and contractors have also been accused of prisoner abuse, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. In 2012 the Department of Justice [official website] closed its investigation [JURIST report] 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.