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'Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied': Abu Ghraib Victims See First Day in Court After Two Decades

© AP PhotoThis is an image obtained by The Associated Press which shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attatched to him in late 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq
This is an image obtained by The Associated Press which shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attatched to him in late 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.04.2024
Plaintiffs Suhail Al Shimari, Asa'ad Zuba'e, and Salah Al-Ejaili accuse CACI of conspiring to commit war crimes including torture. CACI is a Virginia-based professional services and information technology firm hired in 2003 by the Bush administration as translators and interrogators in Iraq during the US-led invasion and occupation there.
Three Iraqi victims were finally given their day in court on Monday after waiting for nearly two decades regarding human rights abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. The case being heard in the US District Court in Alexandria, Al Shimari v. CACI was first filed in 2008 under the Alien Tort Statute which allows non-US citizens to sue for human rights abuses committed abroad, a recent report said.
On Tuesday, Sputnik’s Fault Lines was joined by Dan Kovalik, an American human rights and labor rights lawyer, to discuss the case. When asked about the case that came two decades after the three men were tortured, Kovalik quoted the adage; ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
“They say justice delayed is justice denied. And I would say that is true in this case,” said Kovalik.
“For people who remember the Abu Ghraib scandal when it first came out, I think it was Seymour Hersh, the journalist, who first exposed it and showed the photos. Ultimately, photos were exposed of prisoners stripped naked [and forced to] make a pyramid,” the human rights lawyer said.

"And then, the soldiers would take selfies in front of that, and people were stood up on pedestals and made to at least believe that they were hooked up to electric shocks—and dogs [were also] sicked on people, and people's families [were] threatened and [people were] sexually abused," he added.

“And this was shocking to Americans at the time and it was a big scandal, but then it kind of went away. I mean, the truth is, it shouldn't be surprising to Americans. I mean, when you look at the Iraq conflicts,” Kovalik continued. “[The US] destroyed a nation, [the US] killed millions of people, and, in the process, yes, many people were tortured. It shouldn't be surprising to people. And it's sad that now, 20 years later, they're getting their day in court.”
Kovalik then suggested that many Americans who follow the mainstream news cycle are not thinking of this case which was first reported in 2004. At the time, news of the scandal broke with photos and videos of the alleged abuse being circulated creating a major scandal in mainstream news.

“But Americans aren't thinking of Iraq, they're not going to follow this trial, they're not going to follow what's happening with these folks, and they've moved on. Meanwhile, the Guantanamo torture chambers still exist. There's still a couple people left there. Most of the people who were brought to Guantanamo had nothing to do with terrorism, had nothing to do with 9/11, but they were tortured nonetheless, some tortured to death,” he added.

Sputnik’s Melik Abdul noted a May 2004 report by Major General Anthony Taguba which concluded that a majority [70 - 90%] of the Abu Ghraib prisoners were innocent, based on information from the Red Cross.
The report also found that some women and girls were jailed there as a way to pressure wanted insurgents to surrender. Some of the prisoners said they were raped or sexually abused by their American captors with lesser-known Abu Ghraib photos showing women being forced to expose their bodies. Following the female detainees' release, some of them were reportedly murdered by their relatives in “honor killings”.
Eleven low-ranking US soldiers were convicted and jailed for their roles in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Former President Barack Obama had promised to investigate and potentially prosecute any Bush-era officials responsible for the torture but failed to do so.
“Torture has been part of the CIA's program since its inception,” said Kovalik, when asked about the lack of accountability. “There are still CIA black sites around the world where people are being tortured as we speak, and this is all part of the US' attempt to rule the world. And part of that is dehumanizing people.”
“The things they do are not under much oversight, and the American people generally don't even know what they're doing until years after it's done, if they ever do. And that's a big reason that Julian Assange has been held for years in prison and tortured himself in various ways because he exposed some of that himself through WikiLeaks and that's his punishment. So it's a grim situation, a grim situation.”
A relative of an Iraqi prisoner of war - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.03.2023
20 Years Since US Invasion of Iraq
Indulging in Cruelty: US Atrocities in Iraqi Prison of Abu Ghraib
Last week, US President Joe Biden told reporters that he is considering Australia’s request for the US to end its prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. That report follows a decision that was made last month by the UK’s High Court of Justice in London which further delayed the possibility of extraditing Assange to the US.

“The US takes the position that the US has immunity in the world. It's not a party to the Rome Statute in the International Criminal Court. It says it's not even subject to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. It does not want justice for its crimes, particularly those committed abroad, and I don't think you're going to see that justice anytime soon," Kovalik emphasized.

“The game plan has never been to try [Assange]. It's to hold him indefinitely and that's what's happened. He's been awaiting extradition from Great Britain for years now,” he added. “Biden's polls are already sinking because of his policies in Gaza. To bring Assange here in chains is not going to be a good look for him. And he knows it, so he's got to find a way out of that situation.”
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