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US contractor wants Abu Ghraib lawsuit scrapped

7 February 2015 14:00

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A US military contractor that allegedly orchestrated torture at notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is trying to have a federal judge dismiss a lawsuit lodged against it.

The Virginia-based CACI Premier Technology, which has been sued by four former Iraqi inmates, said Friday its employees were working under military control in wartime and that their actions can’t be questioned in a federal court.

The four Iraqi inmates said they were tortured by the contractor officers ahead of interrogations. They said they were beaten and sexually abused, given electrical shocks and suffered sleep and oxygen deprivation as well as forced nudity.

A court scrapped the lawsuit in 2013 on different grounds, but a federal appeals court has revived the case.

The federal judge at the hearing at the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, said Friday he would need more time to think about whether to dismiss the lawsuit against CACI.

The hearing concentrated on the so-called political question doctrine which says a court cannot rule on political, rather than legal, matters.

“The military exercised complete control. These interrogation techniques were permitted,” said defense lawyer John O’Connor. “There has to be a plan for every interrogation.”

However, lawyers for the detainees asserted that CACI interrogators had effectively gone rogue because of a “profound command vacuum” that existed at Abu Ghraib.

They called on the judge not to confuse the “legitimate authority to lawfully interrogate individuals” with a “license to torture”.

“It is undisputed that there was a command vacuum when these vicious abuses occurred,” said Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a lawyer for the detainees.

“None of them were authorized by the military,” Azmy noted.

The abuses of Abu Ghraib detainees committed by the US Army and the CIA first came to light in reports published in late 2003. The following year, photos emerged depicting the human rights violations including physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder.

Between May 2004 and March 2006, some US soldiers were convicted in courts-martial for the violations committed from 2003 to 2004.

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