By Neil King
Landmark settlement for former prisoners abused between 2003 and 2007
Former detainees tortured at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have been paid US$5.28m after the first successful attempt by lawyers to win compensation from the US-run prison.
A total of 71 Iraqi, inmates at the detention centre between 2003 and 2007, will receive a share of the settlement, which was won from L-3 Services, a subsidiary of US defence contractor Engility Holdings.
L-3 Services was accused of conspiring to torture prisoners in the lawsuit which was filed in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland, in 2008.
The lawsuit stated that L-3 Services “permitted scores of its employees to participate in torturing and abusing prisoners over an extended period of time throughout Iraq,” and that the company “willfully failed to report L-3 employees’ repeated assault and other criminal conduct by its employees to the United States or Iraq authorities”.
In its defence against the lawsuit, L-3 Services said that 68 of the Iraqis “do not even attempt to allege the identity of the alleged abuser” and that two others provide only “vague assertions”.
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal was brought to the world’s attention in 2004 when graphic photographs of inmates were taken by soldiers at the scene and leaked to the news media.
Among the shocking photos were images of naked prisoners piled on top of each other in a cell block, inmates handcuffed to the cell bars and hooded and wired for electric shock.
A military investigation in the same year identified 44 alleged incidents of detainee abuse.
Legal director at the Centre for Constitutional Rights and one of the lawyers for the ex-detainees, Baher Azmy, said: “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 to the victims.”
Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go to trial over similar allegations.