Numerous media outlets are reporting today that a major U.S. defense contractor
has settled claims brought by a group of Iraqi detainees held by U.S.
forces in Iraq, including at the now infamous Abu Ghraib facility. According
to these reports, the defense contractor, Engility, has agreed to pay
nearly $5.3 million to settle the claims brought by 71 Iraqis. Engility
is a spin-off of the company formerly known as L-3 Services, Inc., a subsidiary
of the defense contracting giant L-3 Communications, Inc.
According to reports, the Iraqis alleged that Engility was complicit in
their mistreatment suffered at the hands of U.S. military interrogators.
The detainees were allegedly subjected to numerous acts of torture, rape,
sexual abuse, forced nudity, humiliation and isolation. This is apparently
the first time a U.S. contractor has agreed to settle claims brought by
Iraqi detainees for abuse allegedly suffered at the hands of U.S. forces.
This settlement is an important milestone in holding defense contractors
responsible for their actions while operating in foreign countries. All
too often, U.S. companies and defense contractors seem to operate in a
legal "neutral zone," where they are not clearly subject to
the criminal and/or civil jurisdiction of any one country. Because of
this, it is often difficult to hold such companies accountable for their
illegal actions. Nevertheless, with the enormous growth of the private
defense industry in the last decade, it is imperative that individuals
victimized by the negligent and intentional actions of these companies
be afforded some recourse by which to receive justice and compensation
for their suffering. This settlement is a step in the right direction
toward securing such justice and accountability.