Lawsuit against contractor over Abu Ghraib prison abuse ends in mistrial

 May 3, 2024

Americans were shocked and appalled two decades ago after reports emerged of detainees being abused at Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison.

While the incident led to a lawsuit being filed earlier this year against a U.S. contracting firm, that case just ended in a mistrial. 

Contractors accused of conspiring with soldiers to abuse detainees

According to Politico, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema declared the mistrial on Thursday after jurors told her they were deadlocked.

"It's a very difficult case. I'm not sure we're going to get a verdict," Politico quoted Brinkema as remarking to lawyers on Wednesday.

Jurors were reportedly unable to agree on whether or not contractors with the Reston, Virginia-based company CACI had conspired with soldiers to abuse detainees as a method of "softening them up" before they were interrogated.

CACI maintained that its employees had relatively little contact with the three men who brought the lawsuit and argued that the federal government was responsible for any mistreatment they suffered.

Defense attorney blames federal government for misconduct

What's more, CACI pointed to a legal principle known as the "borrowed servants" doctrine, arguing any abusive actions its employees might have taken were done under the Army's direction and supervision.

"If you believe they were abused ... tell them to make their claim against the U.S. government," ABC News quoted CACI defense attorney John O'Connor as saying of the plaintiffs during his closing arguments. "Why didn't they sue the people who actively abused them?"

However, Politico noted that lawyers for the plaintiffs pointed to CACI's contract with the Army and its requirement that the company supervise its employees.

They also cited a section of the Army Field Manual which specifies that "only contractors may supervise and give direction to their employees."

Plaintiff's attorney says his clients will "continue to fight"

"When our country's military found out about the abuse, they didn't cover it up," plaintiffs' attorney Muhammad Faridi declared.

"Our country's military held the military police members who were perpetrating the abuse accountable. CACI escaped liability," he insisted.

Baher Azmy is a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights who also helped represent the plaintiffs, and he told the Associated Press that "the current expectation is that we'll continue to fight."

"The work we put in to this case is a fraction of what they endured as survivors of the horrors of Abu Ghraib, and we want to honor their courage," Azmy asserted.

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