US military contractor CACI to face retrial over allegations of torture at Iraq prison News
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US military contractor CACI to face retrial over allegations of torture at Iraq prison

A US federal judge ordered a retrial on Friday in a case involving allegations that Virginia-based military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) contributed to the abuse and torture of detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison two decades ago.

Judge Leonie Brinkema granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a new trial and denied CACI’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. The decision follows a civil trial earlier this year where an eight-person jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, which is required in federal civil cases.

The case against CACI exists against the backdrop of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which led to the establishment of US-run prisons in Iraq where the US hired corporations like CACI to provide interrogation services at key detention sites such as Abu Ghraib.

The lawsuit was filed in 2008 under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to bring lawsuits in US federal courts for serious violations of international law. The plaintiffs, Suhail Al Shimari, Asa’ad Zuba’e and Salah Al-Ejaili, were detained in the “hard site” section of Abu Ghraib, where severe interrogation techniques were reportedly used. The plaintiffs allege that CACI is liable for conspiracy to commit torture and war crimes.

CACI contended that the plaintiffs had their day in court and that the evidence did not support a verdict against CACI. The contractor argued that its defense was hindered by the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege, which prevented certain classified evidence from being presented. Additionally, CACI stated that it should not be liable for its employees’ actions if they were under the army’s control pursuant to the “borrowed servants” doctrine. The contractor claimed it should not be held liable for conduct performed in Iraq under US contract, even if that conduct was found to be unlawful.

These arguments are part of a consistent effort of over 20 attempts by CACI to dismiss the case since its original filing. The case has been appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit five times, and when these attempts failed, CACI sought a review by the Supreme Court that was denied. Despite the Supreme Court narrowing the scope of the Alien Tort Statute since the case was filed, Judge Brinkema ruled in 2018 that the plaintiffs had sufficiently supported their claims, allowing the case to proceed to trial. This decision was reaffirmed after the Supreme Court’s Nestlé decision, which allows lawsuits to be brought against corporations under the Alien Tort Statute if there is a direct link between the alleged violations and the corporation’s conduct within the United States.

The case against CACI is one of many legal actions against private military contractors accused of detainee abuse, including those against Titan Corporation (later known as L-3 Services) and CACI for their roles in alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib, as well as against Blackwater for incidents like the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. Many of these cases faced similar legal challenges, specifically dismissals based on national security concerns and the complexities of applying US law to actions taken in war zones.

Despite these challenges, the CACI case has survived multiple attempts at dismissal. The plaintiffs argued that a retrial was justified unless CACI could conclusively prove that no reasonable jury would find it liable.