In landmark case, US firm pays out $5m for Abu Ghraib abuses

Published January 9th, 2013 - 05:30 GMT
Abu Ghraib prison
Abu Ghraib prison

A US defense contractor, whose subsidiary was accused of conspiring to torture detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, has settled with former inmates for over $5m, according to reports on Tuesday,

A legal filing found by the Associated Press discovered that US firm, Engility Holdings, paid 71 former inmates held at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison and other US-run detention centers between 2003 and 2007, $5.28m in a settlement on behalf of its subsidiary, L-3 Services.

L-3 Services Inc provided translators to the US military in Iraq. 

The payments were disclosed in a document that Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission two months ago but which has gone essentially unnoticed.

Abu Gharib detention center was brought to the world’s attention in 2004 when photographs showing the physical, sexual and psychological abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US guards surfaced. 

The Engility settlement marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former Iraqi prisoners to collect money from a US defence contractor in lawsuits alleging torture. 

While the US government is immune from lawsuits regarding combat actions by the military in times of war, courts are still deciding whether independent firms operating in war zones should be given the same legal immunity. 

On Tuesday, Baher Azmy, a lawyer for the ex-detainees in the Engility case, revealed that each of the 71 former-inmates received a portion of the settlement but said details of how the money was distributed among them will be kept confidential.

Azmy, a legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said on Tuesday: “Private military contractors played a serious but often under-reported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib. 

“We are pleased that this settlement provides some accountability for one of those contractors and offers some measure of justice for the victims.” 

Engility is yet to comment on the settlement. 

This summer defense contractor CACI is reportedly expected to go to trial over similar allegations.

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