US contractor wants Abu Ghraib lawsuit scrapped

Iraqis leaving the prison are reflected in the sunglasses of a US soldier at the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, June 27, 2006 (AFP Photo/Ali Jasim)

Alexandria (United States) (AFP) - A US defense contractor that provided interrogators to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq sought to have a federal judge dismiss a lawsuit because its employees were working under military control in wartime.

Four former inmates of the notorious prison, where horrific abuses took place during the Iraq war that damaged US credibility, have sued CACI International Inc. for torturing them ahead of interrogations.

The hearing at the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia focused on the so-called political question doctrine, according to which a court cannot rule on political -- rather than legal -- matters.

CACI says it can invoke the legal doctrine in its defense because its civilian contractors were supervised by the US military.

"The military exercised complete control. These interrogation techniques were permitted," said defense lawyer John O'Connor. "There has to be a plan for every interrogation."

US District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee is due to issue a ruling at an unspecified later date.

Baher Azmy of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the four Iraqi men, said that CACI employees were ordering military police to torture detainees.

"It is undisputed that there was a command vacuum when these vicious abuses occurred," he added. "None of them were authorized by the military."

The former prisoners say they suffered electrical shocks, sexual abuse, sleep and oxygen, dehydration and forced nudity.

In filing their lawsuit, they invoked the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to seek remedy in US court for human rights abuses.

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