LOS ANGELES (CN) – An Iraqi blacksmith sued two U.S. military contractors for torture and war crimes, claiming they made millions while “repeatedly and gravely” torturing him during his 10-month imprisonment in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, after which he was released without ever having been charged with a crime.
Emad Khudhayir Shahuth Al-Janabi says he was beaten, threatened with rape and death, sexually humiliated, tied in painful positions for long periods, and hidden from Red Cross inspectors. He says prison staff kept him as a “ghost detainee,” their code word for prisoners who “were never recorded as having been detained.” And Al-Janabi claims the staff gave him “special treatment,” their term for torture.
In his federal claim under the Alien Tort Statute, Al-Janabi says his captors included CACI International, a military contractor that allegedly made millions by interrogating suspects at Abu Ghraib; Steven “Big Steve” Stefanowicz, an interrogator working for CACI; and L-3 Communications, which provided the government with translators and interrogators.
Al-Janabi says he knows the identities of some of his captors, despite having worn a hood during much of his imprisonment. According to the complaint, CACI has denied claims of torture. The company’s former CEO wrote a book called “Our Good Name,” detailing its claims of innocence. CACI allegedly conducted a thorough investigation, and found none of its employees at fault. But Al-Janabi says these “thorough investigations” left out an important step: interviewing former prisoners. According to his complaint, one of CACI’s employees, Torrin Nelson, spoke out about the “misconduct of his colleagues.” Al-Janabi says the contractors should have prevented their employees from torturing him. He claims the contractors destroyed evidence of torture, hid tortured prisoners from the Red Cross, and lied to the military and the government about their treatment of prisoners.
Al-Janabi says the nightmare began in the middle of the night on Sep. 20, 2003, when “persons dressed in American military uniforms and civilian clothing raided his home.” He says his captors beat him, his brother and his nephew in front of his wife and children. They allegedly put hoods on the pajama-clad men, poured cold water on them, and forced them into the back of a truck. At a military base, the captors allegedly shoved Al-Janabi, still hooded, into a wooden crate and questioned him. He says an interrogator “stuck his hand inside the hood, and began to press his fingers into Mr. Al-Janabi’s eyes. Mr. Al-Janabi screamed in agony, as the interrogator, speaking through an L-3 translator, threatened to claw out his eyes.” Then the captors allegedly beat Al-Janabi until he passed out. Al-Janabi said he still has scars around his eyes.
The complaint continues: “After Mr. Al-Janabi regained consciousness, he was dragged (still hooded and wearing nothing but his shorts) across stones and dirt. His captors, again speaking through an L-3 translator, told him he was going to be executed along with his brother and nephew. Mr. Al-Janabi then heard two gunshots fired immediately next to him. Believing his brother and nephew to have been executed, and believing himself to be the next one to be executed, he began to say the al shahada, the Islamic prayer said immediately before death.”
Al-Janabi says he thought he would be executed as he lay hooded on the ground, with a helicopter hovering over him. Then, the lawsuit alleges, an L-3 translator told him the helicopter would crush him if he refused to talk. He says he could hear other victims “screaming for mercy.” Then, Al-Janabi says, he heard a “mechanized vehicle.” He claims the same translator told him he would be crushed by a tank. Al-Janabi says his captors stripped his clothes off, threatened to rape him, and took pictures of him while he was naked. Then they chained his hands and legs, replaced the hood over his head, and deposited him on a cement floor, where he says he passed out from the pain.
“Welcome to Guantanamo,” an interrogator told him through a translator when he awoke. According to the complaint, “the interrogator told Mr. Al-Janabi that he had been sentenced to execution [and] that if he cooperated, then his wife would not be brought to prison and his family would be given a stipend after his execution.”
Al-Janabi claims he was imprisoned for 48 days in an Abu Ghraib cell in the “hard cite” area, before being moved to another area of the prison for the rest of his 10-month detainment. Twelve days after Al-Janabi arrived, he claims, the Red Cross paid a surprise visit to the prison. Al-Janabi says a Red Cross worker found him naked and cuffed in his hard-cite cell. The complaint continues: “The Red Cross worker observed the bruises from the beatings, and told Mr. Al-Janabi that he was in the Abu Ghraib prison, not Guantanamo. She told Mr. Al-Janabi that he did not have a prisoner number, and that he was in grave danger as a result. She said that he could have been killed if she had not found him, and she gave him a Red Cross number on a card. She also had Mr. Al-Janabi write a letter to his family, which was eventually delivered to them five months later.”
Al-Janabi says his captors never let him see the Red Cross again. “Mr. Al-Janabi’s Red Cross card was taken away from him, and the torture continued. Whenever a Red Cross visit was scheduled, he and other prisoners were taken out of their cells, chained together, hooded, and hidden away in another part of the prison,” the complaint states.
During the rest of imprisonment, Al-Janabi says his captors subjected him to various tortures. He says he was “hung upside down with his feet chained to the steel slats of the top bunk bed … until he passed out … placed naked in a pyramid with other prisoners … subjected to having his penis repeatedly pulled … repeatedly punched and slammed into walls … struck with a baton-like instrument and beaten … deprived of food … deprived of sleep for extended periods of time … subjected to unbearably loud music for extended periods of time … threatened with dogs … subjected to sensory deprivation … and repeatedly forced to crawl naked along the rough cement floor, do push-ups and other physical activity to the point of exhaustion.”
Al-Janabi is represented by Susan Burke and William O’Neil with Burke O’Neil, and by Ronald Kaye and Kevin LaHue with Kay