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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2708

Torture under U.S. Custody to be Examined by the Judiciary, Judge Rules

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 10 November (Asiantribune.com): In a key victory in the war against torture, a federal court November 06 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 private security firms of which were named in the military investigation of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

The Abu Ghraib detention center in Iraq which is under the control of the U.S. military command used private US security firms to undertake interrogation of ‘enemy combatants’ taken into custody in the Middle East region. Two years ago the scandal on torture of terrorist suspects in this detention facility was revealed embarrassing the United States in the eyes of the world.

The United States normally sits on judgment of human rights practices and standards on other countries. In fact, the U.S. State Department issues annually the Country Reports On Human Rights Practices of about 186 countries worldwide and ties its findings to U.S. foreign economic and military assistance.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge James Robertson issued the judgment.

The court 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.

The Center for Constitutional Rights 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 Iraq) in September this year.

It was revealed in a recent testimony in the U.S. Congress by Blackwater USA, a private contracting firm that all private security contracting corporations operating in Iraq come under the direct purview and supervision of the U.S. military command in Iraq.

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, P.C. said, “This is a real victory for the men 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 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.

- Asian Tribune -

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