x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

US defence contractor pays $5m to Abu Ghraib torture victims

Defence contractor whose subsidiary was accused of conspiring to torture detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq pays out to former prisoners.

WASHINGTON // A defence contractor whose subsidiary was accused of conspiring to torture detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has paid US$5.28 million (Dh19.4m) to 71 former inmates held there and at other US-run detention centres between 2003 and 2007.

The settlement in the case, involving Engility Holdings of Chantilly, Virginia, marked the first successful effort by lawyers for former prisoners to collect money from a US defence contractor in lawsuits alleging torture. Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go to trial this summer over similar allegations.

The payments were disclosed in a document that Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission two months ago.

The defendant in the lawsuit, L-3 Services, now an Engility subsidiary, provided translators to the US military in Iraq.

In 2006, L-the company had more than 6,000 translators in Iraq as part of a $450m-a-year contract, an L-3 executive told an investor conference at the time.

On Tuesday, Baher Azmy, a lawyer for the former detainees, said that each of the 71 Iraqis received a share of the settlement.

He declined to reveal how the money had been distributed among them, saying that there was an agreement to keep details of the settlement confidential.

"Private military contractors played a serious but often underreported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib," said Mr Azmy, the legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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

The former prisoners filed the lawsuit in 2008 at federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland.

L-3 Services "permitted scores of its employees to participate in torturing and abusing prisoners over an extended period of time throughout Iraq", it stated.

One inmate told how he was subjected to mock executions by having a gun aimed at his head and the trigger pulled.

Another inmate said he was slammed into a wall until he was unconscious. A third was stripped naked and threatened with rape while his hands and legs were chained and a hood was placed over his head.

Another said he was forced to drink so much water he began to vomit blood. Several inmates claimed they were raped and many said they were beaten and kept naked for extended periods of time.