US court dismisses Iraq contractor torture cases

WASHINGTON, Sept 21 Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:39pm EDT

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WASHINGTON, Sept 21 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday dismissed lawsuits claiming employees of two defense contractors conspired to torture and abuse Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and at other locations.

The court ruled for CACI International Inc (CACI.N), which helped conduct interrogations at Abu Ghraib, and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc (LLL.N), which provided translators to the U.S. military for questioning Iraqi detainees at various sites.

One lawsuit was filed by 72 Iraqis while the other was brought by four Iraqis.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Virginia, held the claims were pre-empted by federal law and must be dismissed. It also cited a ruling in 2009 by a U.S. appeals court in Washington, D.C., in a similar lawsuit against the two companies.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June let stand that appeals court ruling that threw out the lawsuit because the companies had immunity as government contractors and because the suit was pre-empted by U.S. national security and foreign policy law.

In one ruling, the appeals court said a federal judge erred in holding that dismissal of the lawsuit now would be premature and that the CACI's claim of immunity must be developed through the discovery of evidence.

In the other case, the appeals court reversed a different federal judge who had ruled against L-3. The judge ruled it was too early to dismiss the lawsuit because discovery of evidence might end up supporting the plaintiffs' position the translators were operating outside U.S. government authority.

The appeals court cases are Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari v. CACI, No. 09-1335, and Wissam Abdullateff Sa'eed Al-Quraishi v. L-3 Services, No. 10-1891. (Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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