updated 9/12/2009 1:29:43 AM ET 2009-09-12T05:29:43

A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit claiming contractors for defense firm CACI International Inc. abused detainees at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In a 2-1 ruling, the D.C. Court of Appeals said the firm is protected by laws barring suits filed as the result of military activities during a time of war.

CACI provided interrogators at the prison in late 2003, when much of the abuse there happened. The Arlington, Va.-based firm has defended the conduct of its workers at Abu Ghraib. A 2004 Army report found one CACI interrogator was either indirectly or directly responsible for abuses at the prison.

The class action lawsuit was brought on behalf of 212 Iraqis who said they or their late husbands were abused by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib.

In a 31-page majority opinion written by Judge Laurence Silberman and joined by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the court found the firm fell under an umbrella of legal protection provided to military action during wartime.

"During wartime, where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out of the contractor's engagement in such activities shall be pre-empted," Silberman wrote in the majority opinion.

The dissenting opinion by Judge Merrick Garland argued the law does not protect independent contractors, particularly when they are accused of acting outside the rules or instructions of their military overseers.

A lower court judge had previously dismissed claims against a second contracting company, Titan Corp., but had allowed the CACI claims to proceed.

The firms provided interrogators or interpreters to assist U.S. military guards at the prison that served as the backdrop for pictures of grinning U.S. soldiers posing with detainees, some naked, being held on leashes or in painful and sexually humiliating positions.

More on: Abu Ghraib

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