For Immediate Release: June 27, 2011
Washington, D.C. — In a decision that runs contrary to the United States’ treaty obligations and moral standing, the U.S. Supreme Court, with the support of the U.S. government, told 250 alleged victims of torture inflicted by U.S. private military contractors at Abu Ghraib and other sites that they cannot seek a remedy against the perpetrators in U.S. courts. Today, the Court declined to hear the case of Saleh, et al. v. Titan Corporation, et al. a civil suit brought by Iraqi detainees alleging torture, abuse, and sexual violence by U.S. private contractors CACI and Titan (now L-3 Services) who provided interrogation and translation services at the notorious Iraqi prison.
In September 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the civil case on the ground that the contractors were involved in combat activities and therefore, should be protected from lawsuits. Before deciding whether or not to hear the case, the Supreme Court asked the U.S. government, which is not a party to the suit, its opinion on the case. While noting the shortcomings of the appellate court’s ruling, the U.S. government recommended that the Court should decline to hear the case, effectively denying victims a remedy.
“This decision, which was supported by the Obama administration, informs the world that the United States of America has no intention of obeying its moral and legal obligation to provide enforceable remedies to victims of sadistic acts of torture alleged to have been committed by military contractors,” said Human Rights First’s International Legal Director Gabor Rona.
Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the United States must provide “enforceable” or “effective” remedies to victims for acts of torture and serious abuse.
The shocking and infamous photos of abuse showed the world the events at Abu Ghraib. The Department of Defense reported that Abu Ghraib was the site of “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of Iraqi detainees by Americans while under U.S. custody. Eleven soldiers were convicted on detainee abuse charges and Army investigations implicated at least five private contractors in similar crimes. In spite of this evidence no contractor was ever charged.
Rona concluded, “Last week on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, President Obama proclaimed that the United States ‘will remain a leader in the effort to end torture around the world and to address the needs of torture victims.’ Nothing undermines the credibility of the United States as a voice for human rights and for respect for the rule of law more than its hypocritical dismissal of the suffering of torture victims at the hands of the U.S. government and its agents.”
Human Rights First submitted an amicus brief arguing that the decision by the D.C. Circuit to immunize the criminal conduct of private military contractors is incompatible with the United States’ international legal obligations.
Human Rights First sent a letter to the Acting Solicitor General urging the government to advise the Court to hear the case and reverse the decision that denies victims a remedy.
Human Rights First’s blog on how the U.S. government’s brief undermines torture victims right to a remedy can be found here.
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