Federal judge allows Iraqis' suit against military contractors to proceed
A judge for the US District Court for the District of Maryland has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a group of former Iraqi detainees against US military contractors. The lawsuit, Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla filed in June 2008, alleges that L-3 Services, Inc. violated US and international law by directing and participating in abuses at Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons. The defendants in the case had moved for dismissal in November 2008, claiming immunity under the laws of war and sovereign immunity. Additionally, they claimed that the Alien Torts Claims Act [28 USC § 1350], under which the plaintiffs were suing, was not applicable because they did not violate the law of nations. The defendants also argued that they were immune from the claims made under state law because of government contractor immunity and because Iraqi law should be applied. Judge Peter Messitte rejected these claims, explaining:
"Defendants' actions arguably violated the laws of war such that they are not immune from suit under the laws of war. Additionally, the Court is not inclined, at this stage of the proceedings, to find that Defendants are shielded by derivative sovereign immunity, since the Court is unable to determine from the Complaint alone that Defendants were acting within the scope of their contracts with the United States as that defense requires. The Court further rejects the government contractor immunity defense[.] ... The Court declines to dismiss the Alien Tort Statute claims since, in the Court's judgment, Plaintiffs' claims constitute recognized violations of the law of nations, appropriately assertable against Defendants. As for Plaintiffs' state law claims, the Court finds that they are governed by Iraqi law. ... [T]he Court is unable to determine at this time whether Defendants are in fact immune under Iraqi law."
The court held that the case must continue to discovery to answer the issues that it was unable to resolve at this point in the litigation.
In October 2008, lawyers for private US military contractor CACI International, Inc., which was named as a defendant along with L-3 in the original complaint, filed a motion to dismiss the charges against the company based on a claim of immunity. This motion was granted in January 2009. The lawsuit was filed in 2008, alleging that L-3 and CACI subjected them to torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, committed war crimes, assault and battery, sexual assault and battery and infliction of emotional distress, in addition to conspiracy to commit those acts.