Bad News For Accountability For Detainee Abuse At Abu Ghraib

July 1, 2011

By Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt, Amnesty’s Business & Human Rights Group

Earlier this week, we reported on this blog that the possibility of a civil remedy for the detainees abused by Titan (L3) and CACI employees at Abu Ghraib was denied when the Supreme Court refused to allow the suit against the two companies to move forward.

The Center for Constitutional Rights had brought the lawsuit on behalf of 250 victims of abuse using the Alien Tort Statute, a key legal tool in ensuring civil remedy to victims of corporate human rights violations committed overseas.

Now, an opportunity for criminal justice for those abused by Titan (L3) and CACI employees has also been squandered. Today, the Washington Post reports that Special Prosecutor John Durham has closed his investigation of 101 cases of CIA interrogators and contractors alleged participation in detainee abuse.

Durham had been appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder in August 2009 to initially review nearly a dozen cases of alleged detainee mistreatment. Durham carried out his mandate in near total secrecy.

The Department of Justice will open up full criminal investigations in only two cases involving the death of detainees, one at a black site in Afghanistan dubbed the “Salt Pit” and the other at Abu Ghraib. From the limited information available, it appears neither involves Titan (L3) or CACI employees.

The news leaves many questions unanswered – in particular, why  the cases against the contractors were dismissed, particularly in light of the Army’s past critical reports of their involvement, and at times, direction, of abuse.

With the administration’s position in Saleh v Titan, and this news of the paucity of criminal investigation into abuse, Washington is closing doors to both civil and criminal accountability of private military contractors for their involvement in detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, leaving at least the 250 victims named in the civil suit without access to justice or remedy for what they suffered, and sending a signal to companies that such gross conduct will be tolerated.

This infamous moment in the United States’ “global war on terror” will forever remain an ugly scar on our nation’s legacy as a people that (allegedly) value human rights and protect human dignity.

Amnesty International continues its call for full accountability for torture and abuse in the name of national security, to include a full commission of inquiry into U.S. detention and interrogation practices; prosecution of all those responsible for torture and other crimes; and remedy for all victims.