Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Trial By Jury For Abu Graib Contractors

By Cernig

While we're all debating whether almost-drowning is actually torture or not...
WASHINGTON - November 6 - 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 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.
Did you get that last bit? The only reason the translators aren't being tried in federal court too is that they were part of the military chain of command - and are therefore immune to civilian court actions.
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.
Still, it's a good sign that at least one federal court thinks it might be a good idea to have an actual jury hear the case against alleged torturers.

Robert Greenwald's "Iraq For Sale" website has several interesting links about CACI's alleged involvement in Abu Graib as well as their hostility towards those critical of the company.

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