Abu Ghraib Detainees Get Their Day in US Court

Three former prisoners bring claims of torture
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 14, 2024 2:05 PM CDT
Abu Ghraib Detainees Get Their Day in Court, 20 Years Later
This 2003 photo obtained by the Associated Press shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq.   (AP Photo, File)

Twenty years ago this month, photos of abused prisoners and smiling US soldiers guarding them at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were released, shocking the world. Now, three survivors of Abu Ghraib will finally get their day in US court against the military contractor they hold responsible for their mistreatment, per the AP. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday in US District Court in Alexandria, and will be the first time that Abu Ghraib survivors are able to bring their claims of torture to a US jury, said Baher Azmy, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the plaintiffs.

The defendant in the civil suit, CACI, supplied the interrogators who worked at the prison. The Virginia-based contractor denies any wrongdoing, and has emphasized throughout 16 years of litigation that its employees are not alleged to have inflicted any abuse on any of the plaintiffs in the case. The plaintiffs, though, seek to hold CACI responsible for setting the conditions that resulted in the torture they endured, citing evidence in government investigations that CACI contractors instructed military police to "soften up" detainees for their interrogations. One will testify in person, the other two by video.

Retired Army Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led an investigation into the Abu Ghraib scandal, is among those expected to testify. His inquiry concluded that at least one CACI interrogator should be held accountable for instructing military police to set conditions that amounted to physical abuse. There is little dispute that the abuse was horrific. The photos released in 2004 showed naked prisoners stacked into pyramids or dragged by leashes. Some photos had a soldier smiling and giving a thumbs up while posing next to a corpse, or detainees being threatened with dogs, or hooded and attached to electrical wires.

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The US government may present a wild card in the trial, which is scheduled to last two weeks. Both the plaintiffs and CACI have complained that their cases have been hampered by government assertions that some evidence, if made public, would divulge state secrets that would harm national security. Government lawyers will be at the trial ready to object if witnesses stray into territory they deem to be a state secret, they said at a pretrial hearing on April 5.

(More Abu Ghraib stories.)

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