KBR Suit Alleges ‘Forced Labor’ and ‘Slavery’

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We’ve now looked through the lawsuit against KBR that we told you about this morning. The complaint (pdf) alleges that the company — the biggest U.S. contractor in Iraq during the period at issue — engaged in a human trafficking scheme whereby 12 Nepali men were brought to Iraq to work and were prevented from leaving. The men were then kidnapped by insurgents, and all but one were executed.

In sum: “Defendants’ actions as set forth above constitute the torts of trafficking in persons, involuntary servitude, forced labor, and slavery.”

What jumps out is that, though KBR’s Jordanian sub-contractor, Daoud and Partners (which is named as a co-defendant) was more directly involved in the details of the alleged trafficking, this doesn’t appear to be a case of KBR being held liable for acts committed by a sub-contractor that it may or may not have known about.

For instance, the suit alleges that after the kidnapping, the one survivor “was very scared for his safety and wanted to leave to return to Nepal. His employers (both Defendants Daoud and the KBR Defendants) told him that he could not leave until his work in Iraq was complete.”

And:

Employees and managers of the KBR Defendants in Iraq were told by the laborers there that they had been taken to Iraq against their will. For example, another Nepali laborer, Sarad Sapkota, was recruited to work outside of Nepal as a cook in Oman in 2003, but was instead taken to Iraq against his will and forced to work for KBR on a military base. He and the other TCNs [Third Country Nationals] working with him repeatedly told their KBR managers that they did not want to come to Iraq and were not informed that they would be sent to Iraq, but were repeatedly told by KBR that they had no choice and would be forced to work in Iraq until their contract was completed.

This is hardly the first time that KBR has been in hot water, of course. As we noted back in June, the company “was criticized in March for making troops sick by failing to provide clean water. And top military officials have given false statements to Congress to quell controversy over the company.” In addition, at least two female former KBR employees in Iraq have alleged that they were raped or sexually assaulted by co-workers, and that KBR was less than aggressive in investigating their claims.