Daliberti v. Republic of Iraq

Decision Date25 May 2001
Docket NumberNo. CIV. A. 96-1118 (LFO).,CIV. A. 96-1118 (LFO).
Citation146 F.Supp.2d 19
PartiesDavid DALIBERTI, et al., Plaintiffs, v. REPUBLIC OF IRAQ, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

James Cooper-Hill, Rockport, TX, Andrew C. Hall, Miami, FL, Nelson M. Jones, III, Houston, TX, for Plaintiffs.


OBERDORFER, District Judge.

Four male United States citizens and their spouses brought suit against the Republic of Iraq for injuries stemming from alleged acts of torture and hostage taking. Jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7). The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied by Judge Paul Friedman's Order of May 23, 2000. Daliberti v. Republic of Iraq, 97 F.Supp.2d 38 (D.D.C.2000). Following the denial, defendant's counsel withdrew from the case, and the Clerk of Court entered a default against the defendant on October 16, 2000.

On November 9, 2000, plaintiffs moved for a default judgment. During a four-day ex parte bench trial, plaintiffs presented evidence to justify their judgment.1 Plaintiffs testified in detail under oath in open court in response to questions from counsel and the Court. Based on the credible and necessarily uncontroverted material evidence presented at trial, judgment shall be entered for the plaintiffs.


Following the conclusion of hostilities between the United States and the Republic of Iraq in 1991, the four male plaintiffs resided in Kuwait, working in various civilian capacities in and around the Kuwait-Iraqi border. Clinton Hall worked clearing the desert of mines and munitions from the Kuwait side of the demilitarized zone. Kenneth Beaty was an oil rig drilling supervisor. David Daliberti and William Barloon worked together, for different employers, maintaining and overhauling aircraft in Kuwait. Although some of the plaintiffs had military experience prior to living in Kuwait, they lived and worked in Kuwait as civilians. Beginning in 1992, in separate incidents, each male plaintiff was taken into custody by Iraq government employees, and held captive in Iraq. Clinton Hall was held in Iraq for five days. David Daliberti and William Barloon, taken and imprisoned together, were held for 126 days. Kenneth Beaty was held the longest, for 205 days.

At trial, each of the former prisoners testified in detail about the conditions of their capture and confinement and the physical and psychological effect of their experience on them. Plaintiffs also presented two expert witnesses, by video deposition, to support their claims for damages. Dr. William Reid, a psychiatrist, testified that each plaintiff suffered palpable psychological damage stemming from the events related by the plaintiffs. Dr. Reid is currently a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center and has authored numerous articles and books, including an article dealing specifically with victims of terrorism and hostage situations. Pls.' Ex. 4. Dr. Reid's academic background and experience, particularly his significant experience in evaluating and treating former hostages, qualify him to offer expert testimony as to the plaintiffs' mental and emotional injuries. Dr. Barry Wilbratte testified to the economic impact of the captivity on plaintiffs, specifically, their loss of past and future wages. Dr. Wilbratte holds a Ph.D. in economics from Tulane University and is the Chair of the Department of Economics at the University of St. Thomas. Pls.' Ex. 5. In federal and state courts, Dr. Wilbratte has testified about litigants' wage loss. His education and experience qualify him to testify as an expert in this case. Dr. Wilbratte considered the difference between plaintiffs' earnings from employment overseas at the time of their seizure and their diminished earnings from employment in the United States, taking into account various economic factors.

II. Clinton Hall

On the morning of October 6, 1992, Clinton Hall was supervising his crew south of the Iraqi-Kuwait border. Hall and his crew were working inside Kuwaiti territory, the border having been clearly marked with concrete markers and steel rods with flags. Hall noticed an Iraqi patrol nearing his crew, and approached them, with a United Nations officer, to inform them that they were inside the Kuwait border. The Iraqi guards insisted that Hall was inside the Iraqi border and took him into custody at gunpoint, driving him first to Basra and then to Baghdad. Tr. 101-112. The Iraqis released Hall after five days in captivity. Tr. 150.

During Hall's confinement, he lived in a small prison cell with no lights, window, water, or toilet. He was frequently denied food and water, and had only limited access to any toilet facilities. Tr. 129. Iraqi guards or officers interrogated him, in the process accusing him of espionage. At times they threatened him with physical torture, such as cutting off his fingers, pulling out his fingernails, or shocking him electrically in his testicles. He was in constant fear that he would be killed or suffer serious bodily harm. Tr. 119-122.

Kenneth Beaty

On April 25, 1993, Kenneth Beaty was traveling in Kuwait, on his way to an oil rig owned by his employer, which was located within sight of the Iraqi-Kuwait border. He stopped at an Iraqi border checkpoint and displayed his credentials to the Iraqi border guards. The guards detained him at gunpoint and then drove him to Basra, Iraq, and later to Baghdad. While he was being transported, he was often blindfolded and held at gunpoint. Tr. 22-25.

In Baghdad, he was initially confined in a car park, converted into a prison, in a cell that had no water or toilet, and only a steel cot for a bed. Tr. 28, 32-33. After 11 days, Beaty stood trial in Iraq for espionage, and although the Iraqi court found him not guilty of espionage, it later found him guilty of illegal entry into Iraq. Beaty was sentenced to 7 or 8 years in prison, and transferred to Abu Ghreib prison in Baghdad. Tr. 36-41. There, he lived in a cell infested with vermin and shared a toilet with more than 200 other prisoners. He suffered from a heart condition but was denied adequate medical attention and medication while in prison. Tr. 44-51.

While Beaty was incarcerated, his wife, Robin, undertook to secure his release. To that end, she spoke with Iraqi officials, including the Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations Nizar Hamdoon, and with United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Her conversations with them established that Iraq sought either a lifting of the economic sanctions imposed by the United States or a significant humanitarian gift in exchange for her husband's release. Tr. 82-87. She succeeded in raising $5,000,000 worth of prescription medicine, water purification equipment, and other medical goods, all exempt from the sanctions or embargo, to be delivered to Iraq. Tr. 87-88. She also persuaded prominent American citizens, including former President Jimmy Carter, to write letters to Iraqi officials in support of Beaty's release. Pls.' Ex. 1.

Another prominent supporter, Senator David Boren of Oklahoma, contacted Ambassador Hamdoon to open a dialogue regarding Beaty's release. The Senator's conversations with Iraqi officials confirmed that Iraq was holding Beaty in order to exact a price for his release, either in the form of humanitarian aid or the lifting of sanctions. Deposition of Senator David Boren ("Boren Tr."), March 17, 1997, 12-13 (Pls.' Ex. 7-F). Ambassador Hamdoon eventually informed the Senator that if he traveled to Baghdad personally, Iraq would release Beaty into his custody. Boren Tr. 15. Robin Beaty delivered the medical package she had assembled. Senator Boren himself traveled to Baghdad to support her efforts. On November 14, 1993, 205 days after Iraq initially detained Beaty, Iraq released him into Senator Boren's custody. Tr. 66-67.

David Daliberti and William Barloon

On March 13, 1995, David Daliberti and William Barloon were traveling in Kuwait when they mistakenly ventured across the border into Iraq. Iraqi guards seized them at gunpoint, despite the presence and protests of United Nations officials, and took them to Basra, Iraq. Tr. 179-181. The United Nations report on the incident, although it faulted the plaintiffs' judgment, nonetheless determined that the conduct of the Iraqi guards was unacceptable. United Nations Border Crossing Incident Report, June 14, 1995 (Pls.' Ex. 21). Daliberti and Barloon were taken to Baghdad, where, on trial for illegal entry into the country, an Iraqi court convicted them of that offense and sentenced each of them to 8 years in prison. They were transferred to Abu Ghreib prison in Baghdad. Tr. 197-200.

During their captivity, both initially and after they were sentenced, Daliberti and Barloon were in constant fear for their lives. They observed that their captors displayed little respect for human life. At one point, an Iraqi guard attempted to execute Barloon, but was stopped by another guard. In another incident, the vehicle transporting Daliberti struck a pedestrian at high speed, yet failed to stop. Tr. 185-188. They frequently heard other prisoners being beaten, and feared being beaten themselves. Tr. 192, 198. They suffered at times from serious medical problems while in prison, but were never promptly or adequately treated. Tr. 191-204. On a visit to the prison, Kathy Daliberti and Linda Barloon observed that their husbands had lost weight and appeared to be hopeless and despondent. Tr. 206-207, 219-220, 287-290. Like the other plaintiffs, Daliberti and Barloon were not given sufficient food, water or access to toilet facilities. Tr. 191.

During their confinement, then Congressman William Richardson entered into discussions with Ambassador Hamdoon to obtain their release. Deposition of William Richardson ("Richardson Tr."), June 26, 2000 (Pls.' Ex. 7G-2). Congressman Richardson concluded, as in the case of Kenneth Beaty, that the Iraqi government was holding Daliberti and...

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