WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court has put CACI International Inc a step closer to facing a trial in a lawsuit by three Iraqi former detainees who have accused employees of the contractor of directing their torture at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
The justices declined to hear CACI’s appeal of a lower court’s 2019 decision that favored the three Iraqi men, whose suit against the Virginia-based company was filed in 2008 under a 1789 U.S. law called the Alien Tort Statute that can be used to pursue legal claims over alleged human rights abuses.
The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 refused to let the company immediately appeal a federal judge’s earlier ruling that said CACI was immune from being sued because it was working as a government contractor.
The harsh treatment of prisoners held by U.S. troops forces during the Iraq war at the Abu Ghraib facility became a scandal during former President George W Bush’s administration after pictures of the abuse emerged in 2004. Some detainees said they endured physical and sexual abuse, infliction of electric shocks and mock executions.
The three plaintiffs – Suhail Al Shimari, Salah Al-Ejaili and As’ad Al-Zuba’e – are Iraqi civilians who were imprisoned at Abu Ghraib and eventually released without charge. CACI has called the lawsuit baseless.
The lawsuit has bounced around the courts on different legal questions ever since it was first filed. The issue before the justices was on the narrow question of whether the company could immediately appeal the lower court decision and not on the merits of whether the lawsuit should be tossed out.
The lawsuit accused CACI employees who conducted interrogation and other services at Abu Ghraib of directing or encouraging torture, in part to “soften up” detainees for questioning, while managers were accused of covering it up.