Friday, August 29, 2008

U.S. Contractor in Iraq, KBR, Accused of Slavery

U.S. Contractor in Iraq, KBR, Accused of Slavery

Posted by Satyam, Think Progress August 29, 2008.

A Washington law firm filed a lawsuit yesterday against Iraq contractor KBR, "alleging that the company and its Jordanian subcontractor engaged in the human trafficking of Nepali workers," the Washington Post reported today. The suit states that 13 Nepali men were recruited for kitchen work in Jordan only to have their passports seized upon arrival and "told they were being sent to a military facility in Iraq." TPM Muckraker notes that the complaint calls these actions "slavery":

160. Defendants' actions as set forth above constitute the torts of trafficking in persons, involuntary servitude, forced labor, and slavery.

161. Trafficking in persons in a modern day form of slavery, and along with
involuntary servitude and forced labor constitutes a tort in violation of the law of nations and/or in violation of treaties of the United States.

Suit blames U.S. contractor KBR for deaths of 12 Nepalese in Iraq

U.S. military contractor KBR Inc. and a Jordanian subcontractor have been sued by the families of 12 Nepalese men who were captured and beheaded by Iraqi insurgents in 2004. The allegation: human trafficking.

The families claim the men had been promised jobs in a posh hotel in Jordan but instead were sent against their will to a U.S. air base. On the way, insurgents attacked their caravan and seized the 12 and killed them days later.

Another Nepalese worker, who survived the attack and escaped, also is a plaintiff. He maintains he was forced to work at Al Asad Air Base as a warehouse loader for 15 months.

The suit was filed yesterday in federal court, The Washington Post writes.

Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for Houston-based KBR, declined to comment, saying the company had not seen the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Agnieszka Fryszman, told the Associated Press the men came from poor families that went into debt to send them abroad to work. Their deaths pushed the families deeper into poverty.

"It seemed there were a number of different recruiters and different contractors, but they all seem to end at KBR's doorstep," Fryszman said.

In May, the U.S. Labor Department determined that the spouses and parents of the Nepalese were entitled to compensation. Each spouse and set of parents are to receive monthly payments of $233, plus $75 for victims who had children.

This has happened before

Pilipinos Kidnapped and
Forced to work on US Embassy in Iraq
The Oversight Committee holds a hearing, "Allegations of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse at the New U.S. Embassy in Iraq." The hearing examines the performance of the State Department and its contractors in the construction of the new $600 million U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The Committee reviews questions regarding the embassy compound construction as well as allegations of labor abuse through improper contracting practices. Rory Mayberry, a former subcontractor employee for First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting Company, gives opening testimony.