4 ex-Blackwater guards sentenced by US court over 2007 killings of Iraqi civilians

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On 13 April 2015 the guards were sentanced.  One was given a life sentence and the remaining three were given 30-year sentances each.

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Article
14 April 2015

4 ex-Blackwater guards sentenced to long prison terms by US court over 2007 killings of Iraqi civilians

Author: Matt Apuzzo, New York Times

One by one, four former Blackwater security contractors wearing blue jumpsuits and leg irons stood before a federal judge on Monday and spoke publicly for the first time since a deadly 2007 shooting in Iraq. The men had been among several private American security guards who fired into Baghdad’s crowded Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007, and last October they were convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqis in what prosecutors called a wartime atrocity...[J]udge, Royce C. Lamberth...[sentanced] Mr. Slatten to life in prison and handing 30-year sentences to the three others....The ruling ended a long investigation into the Nisour Square shooting, a signature, gruesome moment in the Iraq war that highlighted America’s reliance on private contractors to maintain security in combat zones...In Iraq, Blackwater was perceived as so powerful that its employees could kill anyone and get away with it, said Mohammed Hafedh Abdulrazzaq Kinani, whose 9-year-old son, Ali, was killed in Nisour Square.

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Author: AFP & Le Monde (France)

« Des ex-mercenaires de Blackwater reconnus coupables du meurtre d'Irakiens », 22 octobre 2014

Quatre anciens mercenaires de la société de sécurité privée américaine Blackwater ont été reconnu, mercredi 22 octobre, coupables d'avoir tué quatorze Irakiens en 2007...Les employés de Blackwater étaient chargés de la sécurité d'un convoi diplomatique américain le 16 septembre 2007 sur la place Nisour de Bagdad quand ils ont ouvert le feu. Au total, dix-sept civils irakiens ont été tués, selon les enquêteurs irakiens, quatorze selon les enquêteurs américains. La fusillade avait aussi blessé dix-huit autres personnes...La société Blackwater, dont la licence en Irak avait été révoquée par Bagdad, a été rebaptisée Xe Services en 2009 puis Academi en 2011. Après l'arrivée de Barack Obama à la Maison Blanche, en 2009, le département d'Etat a annulé son contrat avec cette société...

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Article
27 October 2014

Blackwater convictions: “The exception, not the rule” – UN expert body calls for global regulation of private security

Author: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Private military and security companies (PMSCs) personnel must always be held accountable for violations committed under international human rights and humanitarian law, the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries said today, reiterating its call for global regulation of private security. The expert body’s appeal comes seven years after the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians, including children, by Blackwater personnel in Baghdad’s Nissour Square. On 22 October, four private military contractors involved in the killings were prosecuted and convicted of manslaughter and murder by a US federal jury. “We welcome the fact that prosecutions were finally brought, putting an end to the cycle of impunity that prevailed since 2007 and aggravated the suffering of victims and their families,” said Patricia Arias, who currently heads the five-strong group of independent human rights experts.“However, such examples of accountability are the exception rather than the rule,” she stressed. “The difficulty in bringing a prosecution in this case shows the need for an international treaty to address the increasingly significant role that private military companies play in transnational conflicts.”

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Article
22 October 2014

Blackwater Guards Vow to Appeal Convictions for Iraq Shooting

Author: Zoe Tillman, Legal Times

Former Blackwater security guards convicted Wednesday of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians will challenge the verdict, according to defense lawyers...David Schertler of Washington’s Schertler & Onorato, said the defense would fight the verdict “every step of the way”...Court proceedings over the past year offer hints at the issues that might be raised in the...Court of Appeals...The defense lost on a series of challenges to the indictment and the prosecution’s handling of the case, including:

  • Vindictive prosecution: Slatten’s lawyer, Thomas Connolly, argued that the government’s decision to charge his client with first-degree murder after they could no longer pursue the voluntary manslaughter charges was “vindictive prosecution.”... 
  • Tainted indictment: Defense lawyers argued the new indictment was based on protected statements the guards gave after the shooting. That issue was the basis for a 2009 ruling dismissing the original indictment, which was later reversed.
  • Venue: The defendants argued that the indictment failed to allege facts that supported keeping the case in the District of Columbia.
  • Failure to state an offense: The defendants claimed the indictment didn’t meet the requirements of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act because their employment wasn’t related to supporting the mission of the U.S. Department of Defense.

...Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he applauded the jury’s decision...“Efforts to prosecute those responsible for these shootings have been fraught with difficulties, and the lack of clarity regarding U.S. jurisdiction over these crimes complicated the initial prosecution and investigation. It should not have taken this long for justice to be served,”...[Subscription required]

 

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Article
22 October 2014

Blackwater guilty verdict long overdue

Author: Lauren Carasik, Western New England University School of Law in Al Jazeera

Seven years after Blackwater contractors killed 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and injured 17 others in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, a federal jury in the District of Columbia convicted one defendant of murder and three others of manslaughter and weapons charges for the bloodbath. The verdict was announced on Wednesday after 27 days of deliberation...Efforts are underway to fix the accountability gap at the international level as well, largely focused on industry self-regulation...[N]onbinding initiatives are not enough...The U.S. resists labeling its private military contractors mercenaries. But Washington is increasingly relying on paid private gunmen to provide critical services on the battleground and elsewhere, where the risk of lethal errors and the consequences of misconduct are high. Without clear laws, private soldiers will continue to operate in a legal vacuum. The verdict against the Blackwater guards is a small and laudable step toward ending impunity...

 

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Article
22 October 2014

Four Blackwater guards found guilty in 2007 Iraq shootings of 31 unarmed civilians

Author: Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post

Seven years after American security contractors killed 14 unarmed Iraqis by firing machine guns and grenades into a Baghdad traffic circle, a jury…convicted all four Blackwater Worldwide guards charged in the incident…The guilty verdicts marked a sweeping victory for prosecutors, who argued in a 10-week trial that the defendants fired wildly and out-of-control…after one of them falsely claimed to believe the driver of an approaching vehicle was a car bomber. The guards claimed they acted in self-defense and responded appropriately…, their defense said. Overall, defendants were charged with the deaths of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others at Baghdad’s Nisour Square shortly after noon on Sept. 16, 2007. None of the victims was an insurgent. David Schertler, who represents one of the guards, Dustin Heard, called the verdict “incomprehensible.”

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Article
22 October 2014

Rights Attorneys Who Sued Blackwater Respond to Murder, Manslaughter Verdict

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights

In response to today’s guilty verdicts against all four former Blackwater security guards charged in the 2007 killings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Legal Director Baher Azmy issued the statement below... "While today’s verdict cannot bring back the innocent Iraqis killed at Nisoor Square, it is a step towards full accountability for Blackwater’s actions. However, holding individuals responsible is not enough.  If corporations like Blackwater...are granted the rights accorded to “people” they must also bear the responsibilities.  Private military contractors played a major role in the pressure to go to war in Iraq and have engaged in a variety of war crimes and atrocities during the invasion and occupation, while reaping billions of dollars in profits from the war.  To this day, the U.S. government continues to award Blackwater and its successor entities millions of dollars each year in contracts, essentially rewarding war crimes."... [Refers also to CACI Premier Technology & L-3 Services (now Engility)]

 

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