A US defence contractor which supplied interrogators accused of involvement in the abuse and torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has sought to have a lawsuit against it dismissed, stating its employees were working under military control during a time of war.
The plea comes after four former inmates of the prison sued CACI International over the claims.
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Friday’s hearing at the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, focused on the “political question doctrine,” which in broad terms prevents federal courts from ruling on any issue considered political or US policy, and relegates decisions to issues concerned with the law.
CACI has said it can invoke the doctrine in its defence because its civilian contractors were supervised by the US military.
“The military exercised complete control. These interrogation techniques were permitted,” said defence lawyer John O’Connor. “There has to be a plan for every interrogation.”
Baher Azmy from the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the former inmates, said that CACI employees ordered military police to torture the detainees.
“It is undisputed that there was a command vacuum when these vicious abuses occurred,” he said. “None of them were authorised by the military.”
The former prisoners were held at Abu Ghraib prison between 2003 and 2004, during which time they say they were stripped naked, electrocuted, beaten, choked and threatened with death.
All four inmates were later released without charge.
Upon their release they initiated the al-Shimari versus CACI lawsuit, brought under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to seek remedy in US court for human rights abuses.
Evidence of Abu Ghraib abuses surfaced during former President George W Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, when graphic photos emerged showing inmates piled on top of one another, wired for electric shock, among other scenes.
The subsequent backlash damaged US credibility with many criticising the US for grave human rights abuses.
The case which was filed in 2008 remains ongoing.