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Major Case against Private Military Contractor to Go Forward
Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Lerner, Riptide Communications, 212-260-5000
Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, 281-703-6000
November 6, 2007, New York, NY – In a key victory in the war against torture, today a federal court ruled that the lawsuit against a private military contractor in Iraq should be heard by a jury of Americans. The action was filed in 2004 against CACI and Titan, both of which were named in the military investigation of the Abu Ghraib scandal. The Center for Constitutional Rights, Burke O’Neil LLC, and Akeel Valentine PLC brought the suit as a class action on behalf of the hundreds of Iraqi torture victims. The same firms filed an action on October 11 against Blackwater USA for the killing of innocent bystanders at Noori Square in September.
The court today ruled that the case could go forward against CACI, whose employees worked as interrogators in the prison. The court found that that there was a dual chain of command where corporate employees were obliged to report abuse up the chain of command at CACI. The court dismissed the claims against Titan, whose employees worked as translators, reasoning that the military exercised exclusive control over the translators.
Susan L. Burke, of Burke O’Neil LLC, stated, “We are delighted that a jury of Americans will soon be deciding whether an American corporation is free to torture prisoners.”
Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, “This will send a message to all contractors that they cannot act with impunity outside the law and begins to answer the question of how CACI will be held accountable for the atrocities at Abu Ghraib.”
Shereef Akeel of Akeel & Valentine, PLC said, “This is a real victory for the men and women we represent. Now they have the chance to seek justice before the American people.”
The denial of summary judgment in the case means there will be a jury trial of a private military contractor for torture. A status conference is scheduled for December 6, and a trial date will be set then. Attorneys for plaintiffs are asking for it to be held as promptly as possible.
“These facts can reasonably be construed as showing that CACI interrogators were subject to a dual chain of command, with significant independent authority retained by CACI supervisors. When the facts are construed in this manner, no federal interest requires CACI be relieved of state law liability,” Judge James Robertson, district court judge for the District of Columbia, wrote. “…the task of sorting through the disputed facts regarding the military’s command and control of CACI’s employees will be for the jury."
The victims in the case are represented by Susan L. Burke, William T. O’Neil, Elizabeth M. Burke, and Katherine R. Hawkins of Burke O’Neil LLC, of Philadelphia; Michael Ratner and Jennie Green of the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Shereef Hadi Akeel, of Akeel & Valentine, PLC, of Birmingham, Michigan.
The full text of the decision is available at the Saleh et al. v. Titan et al. case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.