Friday, August 29, 2008

Cohen Milstein Files Human Trafficking Victims Lawsuit Against U.S. Military Contractors in Iraq

From Market Watch:

Aug 27, 2008

LOS ANGELES- Cohen Milstein, representing victims of human trafficking and their survivors, filed suit today in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against a prominent U.S. military contractor, Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc. ("KBR"), and its Jordanian subcontractor, Daoud & Partners ("Daoud"). During the relevant time period, KBR was the largest military contractor for the United States in Iraq.

According to the lawsuit, the trafficking victims include 13 Nepali men who were taken to Iraq against their will to provide menial labor at a United States military facility.

The men, ages 18-27, were recruited in Nepal to work as kitchen staff in hotels and restaurants in Amman, Jordan. Their families went deep into debt to arrange the jobs, which they hoped would lift them out of poverty. Once they arrived in Jordan, however, they were not provided the expected employment. Instead, their passports were seized, they were held against their will, and they were told that they were being sent to work at a military facility in Iraq, the United States Al Asad Airbase.

The men allege that the illicit trafficking scheme--from their recruitment in Nepal to their eventual employment in Iraq--was engineered by KBR and its subcontractor Daoud.

Tragically, as the men were being transported to Iraq, a car containing twelve of the men was stopped by members of the Ansar al-Sunna Army, an insurgent group. The 12 men in the car were taken hostage and executed by the insurgents. The executions were filmed and posted on the Internet.

The Inspector General for the United States Department of Defense investigated and confirmed the facts related to the fate of the 12 men, which led to increased enforcement of anti-trafficking measures by the United States.

The 13th trafficking victim, Buddi Prasad Gurung, was not kidnapped with the others and arrived at the U.S. military facility in August 2004. He was assigned to work as a loader/unloader in a warehouse, supervised by KBR.

For 15 months, Mr. Gurung was held in Iraq against his will, before KBR and Daoud allowed him to return home to Nepal. Mr. Gurung has joined with the family members of the 12 deceased victims to file claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and the Alien Tort Claims Act.

They are represented by Agnieszka Fryszman, Matthew Handley, and Molly McOwen of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll P.L.L.C. (Washington, D.C.) Cohen Milstein's International Human Rights practice group has earned a stellar reputation for its work representing victims of forced and slave labor and other violations of international law.

A copy of the human trafficking complaint is available on the firm's website,, as are copies of relevant Department of Defense documents. Ms. Fryszman and Mr. Handley are available for comment.

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