US defence contractor pays $5 mn to Iraqis over Abu Ghraib prison abuse

Abu Ghraib

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 US-run detention sites between 2003 and 2007.

The settlement in the case involving Engility Holdings Inc of Chantilly, Virginia, marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers to collect money from a US 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 US 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.''

Jennifer Barton, a spokeswoman for L-3 Communications, the former parent company of L-3 Services, said the company does not comment on legal matters.

Eric Ruff, Engility's director of corporate communications, said the company does not comment on matters involving litigation.

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