Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Speaking Hypothetically: What to Do When a PMC Tortures
by David Isenberg on July 27, 2010

Let's just suppose for a moment, speaking hypothetically, that a private military contractor engaged in acts of torture. I write "hypothetically" because PMCs mentioned in the past (think CACI and Titan at Abu Ghraib) in this regard fiercely object to the idea that they did any such thing. And even if they did something that was not perhaps one hundred percent kosher, even if it wasn't torture, (think of John Yoo's infamous memo on permissible interrogation techniques back when he was in the Bush Administration's Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during 2001 to 2003) a PMC could argue they were just doing what their U.S. government client wanted or ordered.

One wonders if a PMC really wants to use the same defense that Nazi war criminals used back at the Nuremberg tribunal, i.e., I was just following orders, but that is the subject of another post. 

Anyway, the question remains; what can be done about it if such a thing happens? That sounds like a legal question, and there are very few legal issues that, sooner or later, don't get written about in a law journal. And, serendipitously a recent issue of the Santa Clara Law Review addresses this very question (50 Santa Clara L. Rev. 1277). The modest (for a law journal), 18,789 word article, titled "SUING PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTORS FOR TORTURE: HOW TO USE THE ALIEN TORT STATUTE WITHOUT GRANTING SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY-RELATED DEFENSES" is by law student Efrain Staino.  More...