Richmond: The same principles that
protect US soldiers from being sued by enemy combatants apply
to private contractors hired to help conduct a war, attorneys
for two companies that provided interrogators at the Abu
Ghraib prison in Iraq have told a federal appeals court.
Attorneys for Virginia-based CACI International Inc and
New York-based L-3 Communications Corp urged a three-judge
panel of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse
rulings by two lower courts denying them immunity from
lawsuits by alleged torture victims at Abu Ghraib.
A lawyer for Iraqi detainees argued that even in a war
context, private companies can be sued for actions not
authorised by their contracts with the government -- in this
case, the abuse of prisoners.
"They are asking for something that neither Congress nor
the military has given them -- absolute immunity," said
attorney Susan L Burke, who represents four former detainees
in the CACI lawsuit and 72 in the lawsuit against L-3,
formerly Titan Corp.
The lawsuits allege that the contractors conspired with
others to torture Abu Ghraib detainees in 2003 and 2004.
Photos of detainee abuse at the prison shocked Americans when
they became public in 2004. Several military personnel have
been convicted and sentenced for their roles in the abuse.
Attorneys for the contractors said the same civil
immunity that applies to the government covers their clients
because they were performing a government function at Abu
Ghraib. They also said it is well established that the conduct
of a war is the province of the political branches, not the