WASHINGTON – A defense contractor whose subsidiary was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to torture detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has paid $5.28 million to 71 former inmates held there and at other U.S.-run detention sites between 2003 and 2007.
The settlement in the case involving Engility Holdings Inc. of Chantilly, Va., marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers to collect money from a U.S. defense contractor in lawsuits alleging torture. Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go to trial over similar allegations this summer.
The payments were disclosed in a document that Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission two months ago but which has gone essentially unnoticed.
The defendant in the lawsuit, L-3 Services Inc., now an Engility subsidiary, provided translators to the U.S. military in Iraq. In 2006, L-3 Services had more than 6,000 translators in Iraq under a $450 million-a-year contract, an L-3 executive told an investors conference at the time.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for the ex-detainees, Baher Azmy, said that each of the 71 Iraqis received a portion of the settlement. Azmy declined to say how the money was distributed among them. He said there was an agreement to keep details of the settlement confidential.
“Private military contractors played a serious but often under-reported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib,” said Azmy, the legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We are pleased that this settlement provides some accountability for one of those contractors and offers some measure of justice for the victims.”
Eric Ruff, Engility’s director of corporate communications, said the company does not comment on matters involving litigation.
The ex-detainees filed the lawsuit in federal court in Greenbelt, Md., in 2008.
L-3 Services “permitted scores of its employees to participate in torturing and abusing prisoners over an extended period of time throughout Iraq,” the lawsuit stated. The company “willfully failed to report L-3 employees’ repeated assaults and other criminal conduct by its employees to the United States or Iraq authorities.”
One inmate alleged he was subjected to mock executions by having a gun aimed at his head and the trigger pulled. Another inmate said he was slammed into a wall until he became unconscious. Another said he was forced to consume so much water that he began to vomit blood. Several of the inmates said they were raped and many of the inmates said they were beaten and kept naked for extended periods of time.
In its defense four years ago against the lawsuit, L-3 Services said lawyers for the Iraqis alleged no facts to support the conspiracy accusation. Sixty-eight of the Iraqis “do not even attempt to allege the identity of their alleged abuser” and two others provide only “vague assertions,” the company said then.