A defense contractor accused of allowing employees to abuse prisoners in Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq settled a lawsuit filed by former detainees for $5.28 million.
The money, paid more than two months ago by Engility Holdings Inc. of Chantilly, Va., was divided among 71 Iraqis who alleged abuse at the hands of the contractors, most of whom served as interpreters during the early years of the Iraq war.
L-3 Services Inc., the defendant in the lawsuit and a subsidiary of Engility, received $450 million a year from the U.S. government to provide as many as 6,000 translators to work with the military.
Since 2006, when lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of the former prisoners, L-3 Services claimed it should be granted the immunity afforded to the military during times of war. But in May, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to dismiss the case, saying it needed more facts before making that decision.
Representatives from Engility and L-3 Communications, L-3 Services’ former parent company, declined to comment on the settlement.
Baher Azmy, the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights and a lawyer for the former prisoners, said the settlement recognized the severity of what his clients suffered.
“Private military contractors played a serious but often under-reported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib,” he said. “We are pleased that this settlement provides some accountability for one of those contractors and offers some measure of justice for the victims.”
CACI, another contractor facing a lawsuit filed by former prisoners, appears ready to take its case to trial.
Reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib exploded in 2004, when leaked photos of naked and humiliated prisoners caused an international uproar. A military investigation identified 44 alleged incidents of detainee abuse at the prison. The U.S. Justice Department did not charge any L-3 Services employee with a crime, and the government continued to work with the company.
Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted of crimes stemming from the abuse scandal, including aggravated assault and taking photos of naked Iraqi prisoners being humiliated.
The U.S. Army paid $30.9 million to Iraqi and Afghan civilians who suffered losses during combat action, but it has not offered any compensation to former prisoners who alleged abuse. This week, the U.S. Army Claims Service said it has 36 claims from former detainees in Iraq, none of them related to alleged physical abuse.