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Photo Credit: John Moore/AP/File via CNN Newsource

Abu Ghraib prisoners finally get their day in court after two decades of no accountability. (Op-Ed)

Twenty years have passed since the media first broke the news that the CIA was torturing prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison and other prisons in Iraq. Not only did they torture the detainees, but they took dehumanizing photos of them; U.S. soldiers stood smiling and laughing in front of torture victims. For survivors, the abuse feels as if it happened just yesterday. Finally, a federal is hearing their stories in the case of Al Shimari et al. v. CACI, a lawsuit brought by the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of three Iraqi torture victims. The case firmly asserts CACI, a private security company that the US government hired in 2003 to interrogate prisoners in Iraq, directed and participated in the torture and other abuse at Abu Ghraib. The victims are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. CACI has tried to have the case dismissed 20 times since 2008. Interrogation does not involve torture, and CACI owes these victims reparations.

Three survivors are finally getting their day in court, but is it too little too late? CACI contractors urged military police to “soften up” the prisoners before interrogations. The nefarious photos released in 2004 showed naked prisoners stacked into pyramids or dragged by leashes. Some photos had a soldier smiling and giving a thumbs up while posing next to a corpse, or detainees being threatened with dogs, or hooded and attached to electrical wires.

The inhumane abuse was far more brutal than the leaked photos; Suhail Al Shimari has described sexual assaults and beatings during his two months at the prison. He was also electrically shocked and dragged around the prison by a rope tied around his neck. Former Al-Jazeera reporter Salah Al-Ejaili said he was subjected to stress positions that caused him to vomit black liquid. He was also deprived of sleep, forced to wear women’s underwear, and threatened with dogs.

Enduring such abuse is a war crime and is completely inappropriate and pure evil. No one should face torture like this, and CACI needs to be held accountable. The perpetrators deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law for their part in treating human beings like garbage. The mental and physical toll this took on prisoners is unimaginable, and those scars may never heal.


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