Jury deliberating in Iraq Abu Ghraib prison abuse civil case; contractor casts blame on Army

In this June 22, 2004, photo, a detainee in an outdoor solitary confinement cell talks with a military police officer at the Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)
In this June 22, 2004, photo, a detainee in an outdoor solitary confinement cell talks with a military police officer at the Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Jury deliberating in Iraq Abu Ghraib prison abuse civil case; contractor casts blame on Army

Jury deliberating in Iraq Abu Ghraib prison abuse civil case; contractor casts blame on Army
  • Raisi said the killings by Israel in Gaza were being committed with the support of the United States and other Western countries

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia: A lawyer for the military contractor being sued by three survivors of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq told jurors Monday that the plaintiffs are suing the wrong people.
“If you believe they were abused ... tell them to make their claim against the US government,” said John O’Connor, defense attorney for Reston, Virginia-based military contractor CACI, during closing arguments at the civil trial in federal court. “Why didn’t they sue the people who actively abused them?”
The lawsuit brought by the three former Abu Ghraib detainees marks the first time a US jury has weighed claims of abuse at the prison, which was the site of a worldwide scandal 20 years ago when photos became public showing US soldiers smiling as they inflicted abusive and humiliating treatment on detainees in the months after the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The suit alleges that civilian interrogators supplied by CACI to Abu Ghraib contributed to the torture the plaintiffs by conspiring with military police to “soften up” detainees for interrogations.
CACI, in its closing arguments, relied in part on a legal theory known as the “borrowed servant doctrine,” which states an employer can’t be liable for its employees’ conduct if another entity is controlling and directing those employees’ work.
In this case, CACI says the Army was directing and controlling its employees in their work as interrogators.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs disputed that CACI relinquished control of its interrogators to the Army. At trial, they introduced evidence that CACI’s contract with the Army required CACI to supervise its own employees. Jurors also saw a section of the Army Field Manual that pertains to contractors and states that “only contractors may supervise and give direction to their employees.
Muhammad Faridi, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, told jurors that the case is simpler than CACI’s lawyers are trying to make it.
He said that if CACI interrogators conspired with military police to inflict abuse on detainees to soften them up for interrogations, then the jury can find CACI liable even if CACI interrogators never themselves inflicted abuse on any of the three plaintiffs.
All three plaintiffs testified to horrible treatment including beatings, sexual assaults, being threatened with dogs and forced to wear women’s underwear, but said the abuse was either inflicted by soldiers, or by civilians who couldn’t be identified as CACI workers. In some cases, the detainees said they couldn’t see who was abusing them because they had bags over their heads.
As evidence of CACI’s complicity, jurors heard testimony from two retired generals who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004; both concluded that CACI interrogators engaged in misconduct.
Faridi told the jury that while many of the soldiers who abused detainees were convicted and sentenced to prison, CACI has not yet been held accountable.
“When our country’s military found out about the abuse, they didn’t cover it up,” Faridi said. “Our country’s military held the military police members who were perpetrating the abuse accountable. CACI escaped liability.”
And Faridi said that even when the Army asked CACI to hold its its interrogators responsible, it still sought to evade responsibility. In May 2004, the Army asked CACI to fire one of its interrogators, Dan Johnson, after one of the Abu Ghraib photos showed Johnson interrogating a detainee who was forced into an awkward crouching position that investigators concluded was an illegal stress position.
CACI contested Johnson’s dismissal, writing that the “photo depicts what appears to be a relatively relaxed scene” and saying that “squatting is common and unremarkable among Iraqis.”
“I’ll leave that to you to consider whether you find that offensive,” Faridi told the jury Monday.
At trial, CACI employees testified they defended Johnson’s work because Army personnel had asked them through back channels to do so. O’Connor said that out of the many hundreds of photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib, the photo of Johnson is the only one depicting a CACI employee, and it shows him questioning not one of the plaintiffs but an Iraqi policeman after someone had smuggled a gun into the prison and shot at military police.
O’Connor also apologized for parts of his case that were “long, annoying and boring” but said he had no choice because the US government claimed that some evidence, including the identities of interrogators, was classified. So jurors, rather than hearing live testimony, were subjected to long audio recordings in which the interrogators’ voices were doctored and their answers were often interrupted by government lawyers who instructed them to not answer the question.
The trial was delayed by more than 15 years of legal wrangling and questions over whether CACI could be sued. Some of the debate focused on the question of immunity — there had long been an assumption that the US government would hold sovereign immunity from a civil suit, and CACI argued that, as a government contractor, it would enjoy derivative immunity.
But US District Judge Leonie Brinkema, in a first-of-its-kind ruling, determined that the US government cannot claim immunity in cases involving fundamental violations of international norms, such as torture allegations. And, as a result, CACI could not claim any kind of derivative immunity, either.
The eight-person jury deliberated about three hours before pausing Monday afternoon without reaching a verdict. Deliberations are set to resume Wednesday.

 


Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
Updated 6 sec ago
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Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
“We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do”

WARSAW: Poland’s foreign minister says the NATO nation should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine and should keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in suspense over whether such a decision would ever be made.
Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
“We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do,” Sikorski said when asked whether he would send Polish troops to Ukraine.
Sikorski said he has gone to Ukraine with his family to deliver humanitarian aid.
But a spokesperson for Poland’s Defense Ministry, Janusz Sejmej, told Polish media on Tuesday he had “no knowledge of that” when asked about a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine suggesting Poland might send troops to Ukraine.
The idea of sending foreign soldiers to Ukraine, which is battling Russian military aggression, was floated earlier this year in France, but no country, including Poland, has publicly embraced it.
Poland supports neighboring Ukraine politically and by providing military equipment and humanitarian aid.

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
Updated 30 min 21 sec ago
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Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
  • The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia
  • SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The body of a five-month-old baby was found on Tuesday when some 85 migrants heading for Italy from Tunisia were rescued from distress at sea, according to a Reuters witness.
The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia two days earlier bound for Italy, according to charity group SOS Humanity.
SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted and suffering from seasickness and fuel burns as they were rescued before dawn on Tuesday, the group said in a statement.
Some 185 migrants rescued in separate operations this week, including the stricken boat overnight, were being taken aboard “Humanity 1” to the port of Livorno in northwest Italy. Another 120 migrants were transferred by coast guard boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa in the southern Mediterranean.
Tunisia is grappling with a migrant crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict further south in Africa as well as the Middle East in hopes of a better life in Europe.
Italy has sought to curb migrant arrivals from Africa, making it harder charity ships to operate in the Mediterranean, limiting the number of rescues they can carry out and often forcing them to make huge detours to bring migrants ashore.


Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
Updated 39 min 56 sec ago
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Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
  • Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Ukraine should hold a presidential election following the expiry of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s five-year term.
Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term, something he and Kyiv’s allies deem the right decision in wartime. Putin said the only legitimate authority in Ukraine now was parliament, and that its head should be given power.


US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report

US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report
Updated 28 May 2024
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US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report

US cautions UK against censuring Iran over nuclear program: Report
  • Britain, France expected to condemn Tehran in resolution at IAEA meeting
  • Washington seeking to avoid Mideast escalation amid simmering tensions

LONDON: The US has warned the UK against condemning Iran’s nuclear program at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency next week, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Amid simmering tensions in the Middle East and a US presidential election in November, Washington is reportedly seeking to avoid a regional escalation.

At an IAEA board of governors’ meeting next week, the UK and France are expected to deliver a censuring resolution against Iran over its nuclear program.

But the US is said to have warned other countries to abstain from the resolution, which was drafted over growing frustration with Tehran’s defiance of the IAEA.

Officials in the US have denied lobbying against the British and French move.

As well as electoral concerns, the White House also fears that Iran may be prone to instability following last month’s exchange of strikes with Israel, and the death of the country’s president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash.

UK officials believe that Iran’s nuclear program is as advanced as ever and are “deeply concerned” about escalation, the Daily Telegraph reported.

From June 3-7, the 35-member IAEA board of governors will gather for a quarterly meeting.

Iran is believed to have been enriching uranium to 60 percent purity for three years, following Washington’s axing of the nuclear deal under former President Donald Trump.

Tehran has maintained that it seeks to use the uranium for a civil nuclear program. But the IAEA has warned that no country has enriched to 60 percent purity without later developing nuclear weapons.

Last week, a senior European diplomat described Iranian nuclear violations as “unprecedented” in comments to Reuters.

“There is no slowing down of its programme and there is no real goodwill by Iran to cooperate with the IAEA,” the diplomat said. “All our indicators are flashing red.”


Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state

Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state
Updated 28 May 2024
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Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state

Danish parliament rejects proposal to recognize Palestinian state
  • The Danish bill was first proposed in late February by four left-wing parties
  • “We cannot recognize an independent Palestinian state, for the sole reason that the preconditions are not really there,” Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said

COPENHAGEN: Denmark’s parliament on Tuesday voted down a bill to recognize a Palestinian state, after the Danish foreign minister previously said the necessary preconditions for an independent country were lacking.
Ireland, Spain and Norway on Tuesday formally recognized a Palestinian state, after their announcement last week that they would do so angered Israel which called the move a “reward for terrorism” and recalled its ambassadors.
The Danish bill was first proposed in late February by four left-wing parties.
“We cannot recognize an independent Palestinian state, for the sole reason that the preconditions are not really there,” Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said when the bill was first debated in parliament in April.
“We cannot support this resolution, but we wish that there will come a day where we can,” Rasmussen, who was not present at the vote on Tuesday, added.
Denmark has, following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, said that Israel has a right to defend itself, but has more recently urged the country to show restraint and maintained it must respect international law.
Dublin, Madrid and Oslo have painted their decision as a move aimed at accelerating efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, and have urged other countries to follow suit.