After almost a decade of false starts and dismissals, a lawsuit filed by former inmates at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is moving ahead.
The suit is directed against the civilian interrogators who were contracted and charged with overseeing the facility, which made international headlines after a series of terrifying photographs were made public.
Inmates were forced to endure a litany of tortures and abuses, which included mock executions, sexual humiliation, and routine beatings.
The revelation came 13 years ago, shortly after the War in Iraq had begun.
Four years later, several one-time and former inmates at Abu Ghraib attempted to sue to the civilian company purportedly responsible for coordinating the abusive regime, CACI Premier Technology.
In the time since, judges and courts have avoided the suit, claiming it wasn’t their place to play politics between the war powers of the executive branch and foreign nationals.
This time, U.S. District Judge Loenie Brinkema said the case is going to move forward.
“We’re not dismissing this case. It’s going to go forward,” said Brinkema, concluding a hearing on Friday.
Judge Brinkema said she would provide a written ruling at some point in the future, outlining her rationale for finally allowing the case to proceed.
According to the News Observer, the plaintiffs are three inmates, who charge CACI with directing a ‘conspiracy in which they ordered military police to soften up the detainees for questioning with tactics that amounted to torture, including beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nudity and sexual humiliation.’
The appeals court ordering the case forward said that CACI isn’t able to escape liability under any political doctrine, even if it was carrying out the military’s wishes in encouraging torture.
The News Observer notes that The Center for Constitutional Rights – which filed the suit on the inmates’ behalf – has argued that CACI played a key and inescapable role in the abuse at Abu Ghraib.
“There was a leadership vacuum” at Abu Ghraib, said Robert LoBue, one of the lawyers representing the former inmates. “CACI interrogators assumed a de facto position of control. We think they set the example, set the tone.”
CACI, on its part, said it shouldn’t be held responsible for acts which its interrogators did not directly inflict. Moreover, they said they aren’t sure how to defend themselves when much of the evidence related to Abu Ghraib remains classified and in possession of the U.S. government.
Judge Brinkema seemed skeptical of CACI’s pre-emptive defense, saying they should be able to recollect the actions of their own employees without having to rely on government documentation.
Moreover, Brinkema removed a major obstacle by permitting the plaintiffs to give their depositions from overseas – past judges had required they testify in the United States, despite the plaintiffs not being able to obtain the requisite visas.