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Atlanta attorney Roderick E. Edmond’s time as an Army corpsman is one reason he is suing two military contractors on behalf of inmates allegedly tortured in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. “If, in fact, organizations and agents of the United States that represent us don’t treat prisoners with a certain degree of dignity and respect, when our soldiers get held prisoner … then we can expect them to be treated in the exact same way,” he said. Edmond’s partner, prisoners’ rights attorney Craig T. Jones, said he joined the litigation because “we have got people whose basic human rights are being violated by American corporations for profit. And we’re interested in holding these companies accountable for their war crimes … . [J]ust because we are at war doesn’t mean it’s the wild, wild West and the rules don’t apply.” On Tuesday morning, Edmond and other members of a small consortium of firms — including four Georgia lawyers and an Australian attorney who spent three years working in Georgia — announced the suit against military contractors CACI International Inc. and the Titan Corp. on the steps of a federal courthouse in Washington. The lawyers’ consortium, known as the Iraqi Torture Victim Group, represents four Iraqis who were detained as suspected terrorists by American troops at Abu Ghraib, where they were allegedly tortured and humiliated in violation of the international Geneva Conventions of 1949. A fifth Iraqi named as the suit’s lead plaintiff is a widow whose husband died after allegedly being tortured at the prison. The suit, the second filed in the United States on behalf of Iraqi nationals against CACI and Titan, seeks unspecified actual, compensatory and punitive damages against the two companies, which contracted with the Pentagon to provide interrogation services to American and coalition forces in Iraq. Ibrahim v. Titan, No. 1:04CV01248 (D.C.D. July 27, 2004.) The suit also seeks to force the defendant corporations to disgorge profits derived from interrogation practices that allegedly included torture. It also seeks to terminate the firms’ federal contracts and permanently bar them from doing business with the U.S. government. Another suit, seeking class action status as well as damages for Iraqis detained by the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib, was filed last month in San Diego by a consortium of San Diego, New York, Philadelphia and Michigan attorneys. Al Rawi v. Titan Corp., No. 3:04CV01143 (S.D. Cal. June 9, 2004.) “They beat us to the courthouse,” Jones said. The Iraqi Torture Victim Group suit is being brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which permits foreign nationals to sue American individuals or firms that have violated international law and, as a result, caused injury or harm. The litigation also alleges violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, claiming that the torture of Iraqis detained by coalition forces in Abu Ghraib was part of “an ongoing pattern.” Under RICO, plaintiffs may sue for treble damages and attorney fees. PLAINTIFFS WERE TORTURED, SUIT SAYS The allegations in the suit mirror a litany of horrific practices that occurred at Abu Ghraib and have been documented by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who conducted an investigation into the American military’s detention and internment practices at the prison. Practices at Abu Ghraib also have been documented by American journalists, New Yorker magazine writer Seymour M. Hersh foremost among them. The suit alleges that Akram Hanoush Yakou, a married father of two young children, was taken to Abu Ghraib where, over the course of nine days, he was tortured and beaten to death. The suit also claims that four other Iraqis were beaten repeatedly, deprived of food and water, hung by their arms, subjected to prolonged exposure to noise and cold, stripped naked for the majority of the time they were in custody, threatened with guard dogs and pistols, urinated on, deprived of sleep and sexually humiliated. All four have described their treatment in videotaped interviews to Australian attorney Michael A. Hourigan. “None of our clients are terrorists,” Edmond said Tuesday. “They are just ordinary people who got caught up in a wave of terrorism after the war.” The four surviving inmates have been released, he said. SUIT MEANT TO ‘SEND A MESSAGE’ Hourigan, a solo practitioner in Australia who has for eight years focused on international human rights abuses, personally tracked down former Iraqi prisoners with the help of an Iraqi peace organization and interviewed them. He was in Washington Tuesday with Edmond to announce the litigation. Hourigan said the suit is intended to halt continuing abuses at the prison. In addition, he said, “it should send a message to policymakers in their military ventures around the world … that when you detain people, you detain them according to recognized legal standards. That’s not gray. That’s black-and-white.” The suit is also intended to compensate the former inmates who, he said, have suffered “tremendous emotional and physical injuries.” EXPERIENCE IN PRISON ABUSE CASES Hourigan said he had worked with Edmond in downtown Atlanta, and “it was only natural that when the opportunity came to participate in this case, I would go back to people I knew.” Hourigan is the consortium’s liaison with the Iraqi plaintiffs, who have never met their Georgia lawyers. Hourigan is not listed as a counsel of record because he said he is not certified to practice law in the United States. The Abu Ghraib suit is Edmond’s first involving the Alien Tort Claims Act. But Jones has significant experience litigating prisoners’ rights suits. Two years ago, Jones won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Alabama prison guards were not immune from liability after they tied an inmate to a hitching post and left him for more than eight hours without shade or water. The ruling overturned an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion granting the guards immunity as government employees. BRINGING BIG COMPANIES TO JUSTICE Jones said the litigation names only the private-sector military contractors as defendants because “the military seems to be doing a good job of policing their own. They are bringing soldiers to justice.” But, he added, “nobody’s bringing these big companies to justice who are trying to profit from it.” Bringing a prisoners’ rights suit under federal RICO statutes is unusual, Jones acknowledged. “Generally, you’re not talking about business enterprises running prisons, but in this case it’s appropriate.” The suit, he said, is being financed by the consortium of predominantly small firms “willing to step up with the money” because they have an interest in prisoners’ and international human rights. But, he said, “we are also interested in a payoff, too. We feel like we are going to continue to get referrals and feel we may end up with a large number of cases.” Both Titan and CACI International “have a financial interest in winning at all costs or to settle,” Jones said, “given that if they have violated international law, they would lose their federal contracts.” Other Georgia attorneys who have joined the Abu Ghraib consortium are Reginald D. Simmons and Hezekiah Sistrunk Jr., a partner at the Atlanta offices of the firm founded by Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., Cochran, Cherry, Givens, Smith & Sistrunk. Sistrunk said his office joined the litigation after receiving assurances that the plaintiffs “were not a part of any insurgent group and not a part of any kind of organized force that would be putting our forces at risk in Iraq. … We don’t want to do anything, anything that puts at risk the efforts being undertaken by our forces in Iraq. We, just like any other firm in America, abhor terrorist activity.” Sistrunk said that the consortium is taking the Iraqi prisoner case on contingency but that “sometimes you have to move forward in cases without regard for cost.” Simmons, an Augusta attorney and former military intelligence officer, called bringing the case the “the right thing to do.” “I don’t blame the government,” he said of the conditions at Abu Ghraib. “I do take issue with a private entity that contracts with the government, taking millions and millions of dollars from taxpayers,” that then refuses to be governed by international law. “They should be held accountable,” he said. “The military … is taking its course against those military persons who were involved. We are that group that wants to hold and intends to hold the private contractors fully liable to the letter of the law for their actions. … No one should be allowed to take money from our government and then make us look to the nation as if we are the bad guys.”

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