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.