The World in U.S. Courts: Winter 2016 - Alien Tort Statute (ATS)/Political Question Doctrine/Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA)/ Act of State Doctrine | October.21.2016
Former detainees of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq brought claims under the Alien Tort Statute against a private company that conducted interrogations under contract from the US military. In this opinion, the Court of Appeals concluded that the “political question” doctrine, which makes certain discretionary decisions of the Executive Branch “nonjusticiable,” does not preclude a court from hearing claims that a contractor committed acts that were unlawful at the time of their commission. The Court further held, however, that the contractor’s alleged acts “are shielded from judicial review" under the political question doctrine if they were not unlawful when committed and occurred under the actual control of the military or involved sensitive military judgments. The case was sent back to the trial court for that question to be answered.