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US Firm Pays Millions to Settle Iraqi Detainee Suit

by VOA News January 09, 2013

A U.S. defense contractor that helped detain and interrogate prisoners during the Iraq war has paid more than $5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by former detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities.

In court filings, the 72 plaintiffs alleged that employees of L-3 Services tortured and abused them. They said the tactics included beatings, forced nudity, exposure to extreme temperatures and keeping detainees awake for long hours.

The company, now called Engility Corporation, asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing its personnel were part of 'occupying forces' and thus not subject to civil lawsuits. A federal court denied the motion in 2010, and last year an appeals court dismissed the company's bid to overturn the decision.

The plaintiffs accepted a $5.28 million payment in October to resolve the case.

Details of the settlement appeared in a quarterly earnings report Engility filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in November.

Photographs first published in 2004 revealed abuses at Abu Ghraib, including images of naked detainees stacked in a pyramid. The abuses ignited a global outrage, and led to the conviction of eleven U.S. military personnel.

The issue of American companies being prosecuted for human rights violations committed in other countries has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The court began its latest term in October by hearing a case involving 12 Nigerians who sued Royal Dutch Petroleum, accusing the company of complicity in torture, executions and other violations in Nigeria.

The court is weighing whether a 1789 law called the Alien Tort Statute allows such suits. It has yet to issue a ruling.

Engility filed a so-called 'friend of the court' brief in the case, citing its own court battles in arguing that companies are not subject to claims under the Alien Tort Statue for violations committed abroad.

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