Sanford Heisler, LLP Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Survivors of Human Rights Abuses

Posted October 5th, 2015.

Survivors of human rights abuses urge no immunity for KBR in beheadings and forced labor related to military contracts in Iraq

NEW YORK, NY, October 5, 2015 — Sanford Heisler, LLP today filed an amicus brief with the Center for Justice and Accountability in the case of Adhikari v. Daoud & Partners on behalf of survivors of human rights abuses. The plaintiffs in the case allege that agents of defense contractor KBR trafficked thirteen Nepali laborers to Iraq against their will. On their way to a U.S. Military base, twelve of the thirteen were captured and executed by insurgents, while the thirteenth was forced to labor on a U.S. military base for over a year before finally being released.

The plaintiffs—the lone living laborer and the families of the twelve other men—have sued under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), among other statutes, claiming violations of international human rights law. KBR has argued that it is not liable under the ATS because the killings and forced labor alleged by the plaintiffs took place overseas. The trial court agreed with KBR and the plaintiffs are now appealing the trial court’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

“For more than thirty years, survivors of atrocities have fought to ensure that the United States will not become a safe-haven for torturers, traffickers, or other enemies of humanity,” said Yonina Alexander, counsel for the amici and an associate in the San Francisco office of Sanford Heisler, LLP. “The Alien Tort Statute is a critical tool towards achieving that goal. Companies like KBR should not be permitted to escape liability for their actions overseas by taking refuge in the United States.”

In their brief, the survivors of human rights abuses argue that the trial court erred when it dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims on the basis that the conduct at issue took place abroad. The trial court should instead have sustained jurisdiction because the defendant was an American company, acting pursuant to a contract with the U.S. Military, to perform services in insurgent -held territory and at an America military base. The alternative, the survivors explained, would leave victims with no redress while their perpetrators could live in freedom in the United States.

“The United States hires military contractors to assist our men and women in uniform, not to violate the very same ideals that our soldiers are fighting for,” said Russell L. Kornblith, counsel for the amici and an associate in the New York office of Sanford Heisler, LLP. “Providing a safe haven to companies like KBR would be no different than providing safe haven to torturers or pirates. The United States Congress and the American people have emphatically agreed that our country must not play host to such enemies of humanity.”

In recent years, Congress and the Executive Branch have emphasized that holding human rights violators accountable is an important aspect of U.S. foreign policy.

“From the birth of our country, the Alien Tort Statute has been a symbol of this nation’s commitment to customary international law,” Alexander continued. “Our clients have done much work to shed light on abuses around the globe, and to bring their perpetrators to justice. We are hopeful that the Court of Appeals will uphold this commitment,” she said. “KBR should have been working to uphold American ideals; it should not be able to escape accountability for its conduct simply because its actions took place overseas,” Kornblith added.

The case, Adhikari v. Daoud & Partners, No. 15-20225, is currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A copy of the brief can be found here.

About Sanford Heisler, LLP
Sanford Heisler, LLP is a national public interest class-action litigation law firm, which has offices in Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, and San Diego. Sanford Heisler is committed to protecting the rights of individuals and classes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam, and other civil rights matters. The firm has extensive experience in complex class action litigation, having successfully represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents select individual clients such as executives, lawyers in employment disputes, and whistleblowers. The firm has recovered over $1 billion for its clients. For more information, visit www.sanfordheisler.com or contact Sanford Heisler at (646) 402-5650.

About the Center for Justice and Accountability
The Center for Justice and Accountability is an international human rights organization dedicated to deterring torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other severe human rights abuses around the world through litigation, policy advocacy and outreach in pursuit of truth, justice and redress for victims and survivors. For more information, visit www.cja.org.

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-493-1027, Jamie@newspros.com

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