Mistrial Declared in Abu Ghraib Torture Suit Against US Contractor

“This will not be the final word; what happened in Abu Ghraib is engraved into our memories and will never be forgotten in history,” one plaintiff vowed.

By Brett Wilkins. Published 5-2-2024 by Common Dreams

U.S. Army Spc. Charles Graner tortures hooded and handcuffed prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command)

The federal judge presiding over a case filed by three Iraqis who were tortured by U.S. military contractors in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison two decades ago declared a mistrial Thursday after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

After eight days of deliberation—a longer period than the trial itself—the eight civil jurors in Alexandria deadlocked over whether employees of CACI conspired with soldiers to torture detainees. The Virginia-based professional services and information technology firm was hired in 2003 during the George W. Bush administration to provide translators and interrogators in Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion and occupation, conspired with soldiers to torture detainees.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema—who said Wednesday that “it’s a very difficult case”—declared a mistrial.

Plaintiff Salah Al-Ejaili told The Guardian that “it is enough that we tried and didn’t remain silent.”

“We might not have received justice yet in our just case today, but what is more important is that we made it to trial and spoke up so the world could hear from us directly,” he added. “This will not be the final word; what happened in Abu Ghraib is engraved into our memories and will never be forgotten in history.”

Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights—which filed the case—said that “we are, of course, disappointed by the jury’s failure to reach a unanimous verdict in favor of our plaintiffs despite the wealth of evidence.”

“But we remain awed by the courage of our clients, who have fought for justice for their torment for 16 years,” Azmy added. “We look forward to the opportunity to present our case again.”

Al Shimari v. CACI, which was first filed in 2008 under the Alien Tort Statute—a law allowing non-U.S. citizens to sue for human rights abuses committed abroad—plaintiffs Suhail Al Shimari, Asa’ad Zuba’e, and Al-Ejaili accused CACI of conspiring with the U.S. military to perpetrate war crimes including torture at Abu Ghraib. The men suffered broken bones, electric shocks, sexual abuse, extreme temperatures, and death threats at the hands of their U.S. interrogators.

The case marked the first time a U.S. jury heard a case brought by Abu Ghraib survivors. Along with the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, the prison became synonymous worldwide with U.S. torture during the War on Terror. Dozens of Abu Ghraib detainees died while in U.S. custody, some of them as a result of being tortured to death. Abu Ghraib prisoners suffered torture and abuse ranging from rape and being attacked with dogs to being forced to eat pork and renounce Islam.

A 2004 probe by Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba found that the majority of Abu Ghraib prisoners—the Red Cross said 70-90%—were innocent. Women and girls were also imprisoned at Abu Ghraib as bargaining chips to lure militants wanted for resisting the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their homeland. Some reported rape and sexual abuse by their captors, which reportedly led to the “honor killing” murders of multiple women.

CACI denies any wrongdoing and still gets millions of dollars worth of U.S. government contracts each year. In February, Fortune named CACI one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” for the seventh consecutive year.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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