When a multinational force led by the United Stated invaded Iraq in 2003, Iraqi civilians expected to live under constant bombardment, shortages of food and water, and instability. What the Iraqi Civilians did not expect was for their husbands, fathers, and children to be exposed to brutal torture and humiliation by US military and Corporations in secret prisons, like Abu Ghraib.
In 2008, previously detained Iraqis filed a civil action in Federal Court against CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) alleging various claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), including claims of war crimes, torture, crimes against humanity, sexual assault and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. CACI, a corporation with headquarters in Virginia, was hired by the U.S. Government to conduct “interrogations” of detainees in Abu Ghraib in 2003 due to a shortage of military personnel. On June 30, 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s dismissal and ruled that the case had sufficient ties with the US for a US court to hear the plaintiff’s claims. The main issue is whether the ATS, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. will allow for a jurisdictional basis to hold U.S. corporations and its employees liable for torture and war crimes committed in a foreign territory.
The United States, just like every nation, must implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) into domestic law, including taking “the necessary steps… to adopt such legislative or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present covenant,” such as the “right not to be subjected to torture.” Since CACI was hired by the U.S. Government to assist with interrogations of Iraqi detainees, they should be held liable to such standard. If they are not held liable, the United States can get away with torturing detainees by simply hiring third-party “hitmen.”
Furthermore, pursuant to Article 2(1) of the ICCPR, the phrase “each state party to the present Covenant undertake to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction” has been construed to include all persons in a State’s territory or under its control. Since Iraqi civilians are being held in a prison controlled by the United States, those individuals are entitled to protections of the ICCPR. The United States and all of its employees are not permitted to perpetrate violations of the Covenant on the territory of another State, which violations it could not perpetrate on its own territory.
If the Fourth Circuit affirms the lower court’s decision, it will release all U.S. corporations and their employees of liability for committing war crimes, crimes against humanities and torture. What kind of model is the United State setting for the rest of the world to follow?
Sources: International Enforcement Law Reporter: “U.S. Appellate Court Reinstates Abu Gharib Torture Suit against CACI” (October 2014); Business and Human Rights Resource Center: “Abu Ghraib Lawsuits Against CACI, Titan”; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Image: Restoring Humanity