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Supreme Court Denies Cert in Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal Suit

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 29, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive a lawsuit against two defense contractors, which alleged that the defense contractors' employees engaged in torture at Abu Ghraib prison.

The lawsuit was filed in 2004 after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal became public and was brought against CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. The former provided interrogators at Abu Ghraib while the latter provided interpreters to the U.S. military, reports Reuters.

The lawsuit, which was brought on behalf of 26 tortured Iraqis, claimed that the contractors had tortured and mistreated the Iraqis while they were detained at the infamous prison. According to Bloomberg News, the inmates were subjected to beatings, sexual humiliation, exposure to extreme temperatures and rape at the hands of the military contractors.

The companies denied that their contractors took part in the alleged activities.

The petition for certiorari before the United States Supreme Court raised two questions:

  1. Whether the court of appeals erred by finding that claims for torture and other war crimes cannot be brought against private actors under the Alien Tort Statute; and
  2. Whether the court of appeals erred by creating a “battle-field preemption” doctrine that extends derivative sovereign immunity to contractors.

The Supreme Court let stand the finding the lawsuit was pre-empted by federal laws on national security and foreign policy law and that the companies enjoyed the privilege of sovereign immunity as they were government contractors.

Attorneys for the Iraqis, however, had argued that the contractors should not enjoy the privilege of governmental immunity, as the torture was outside the scope of their work.

The petition for certiorari was denied on June 27, 2011, without comment.

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