Iraq Vows to Sue Blackwater for ‘Serious Crime’ After Charges Dismissed
January 1, 2010
(ChattahBox)—The Iraqi government vows to sue Blackwater Worldwide, after a U.S. federal court dismissed all charges against the five security guards accused in the deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi citizens at a busy Baghdad intersection in 2007. The indiscriminate shooting of civilians by private contractors in a war zone strained relations with Iraq, and led the U.S to reexamine its relationship with Blackwater. And the deaths caused a backlash against the increasing outsourcing of military jobs to civilian contractors.
Five Blackwater guards involved in the shooting were eventually charged in U.S. federal court with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts of attempt to commit manslaughter and one weapons violation count. But during a hearing on Friday the federal judge threw out all of the charges, finding that prosecutors violated the defendants’ constitutional rights by using statements obtained under duress, threatening them with job loss.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina was not convinced with the prosecutors’ explanation for using the statements. “The explanations offered by the prosecutors and investigators in an attempt to justify their actions and persuade the court that they did not use the defendants’ compelled testimony were all too often contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility,” Urbina wrote in his opinion.
The Justice Department is reviewing the Judge’s decision and contemplating any future charges. Dean Boyd, Justice Department spokesman, said in an e-mail, “We’re still in the process of reviewing the opinion and considering our options.
The Iraqi government expressed “regret” at the court’s decision for the crimes committed against its citizens. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said “The Iraqi government regrets and is disappointed by the U.S. court’s decision … We have our own investigations and they showed that Blackwater committed a serious crime in the killing of 17 Iraqi citizens.”
Dabbagh plans to pursue Blackwater, now known as Xe in civil court. “The Iraqi government is considering other legal means through which it can sue the Blackwater company,” he added.
The deadly shooting occurred on September 16, 2007 in Nisoor Square in downtown Baghdad. The guards were part of a Blackwater convoy escorting U.S. officials through the busy intersection. And they began firing automatic weapons and grenade launchers at the civilians on the street, when they claimed they heard a nearby explosion and gunfire.
Photo Source: ALI YUSSEF/AFP/Getty Images