Blackwater USA lawsuit (re 16 Sep 2007 Baghdad incident)

Security personnelOn 16 September 2007, a group of Blackwater personnel providing security for a US State Department convoy in Baghdad were involved in a shooting incident in which shots were fired at civilians.  As many as 17 Iraqis were killed, and over 10 injured.  On 11 October 2007, a survivor and the estates of three victims of the attack filed a lawsuit under the Alien Tort Claims Act in US federal court against Blackwater, its parent company The Prince Group, and Blackwater founder and chairman Erik Prince.  The plaintiffs claim that Blackwater is liable for extrajudicial killings and war crimes because its employees opened fire on unarmed civilians.  The plaintiffs’ claims also include wrongful death and negligent hiring, training and supervision by Blackwater of its personnel.  In an interview, Erik Prince said the lawsuit was “politically motivated” and without basis.  In July 2009, the court consolidated this case with five other lawsuits based on similar facts.  On 6 January 2010, parties to five of the consolidated lawsuits announced that they had reached a settlement with the defendants, while the suit filed on behalf of the three victims of the 2007 incident continued.  In December 2010, Blackwater argued that the US government, and not the company itself, should be held accountable for the shooting incident because it was providing security to State Department personnel.  In January 2011, District Judge Terrence Boyle ruled that nonresidents are unable to sue in federal court for injuries sustained outside the country and sent the case back to a North Carolina court, where the suit was first filed.  The company, now known as Academi, settled this lawsuit out of court in January 2012.  The terms of the settlement are confidential.

 

On 8 December 2008, the US Department of Justice filed criminal charges against five individual Blackwater security guards with regard to the same incident.  The Department of Justice did not file charges against the company.  The defendants were charged with 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter.  A sixth guard pleaded guilty to lesser charges in return for cooperating with the government.  On 31 December 2009, the judge in this case dismissed the lawsuit. The judge stated that the Department of Justice's mishandling of the case required the indictments to be dismissed.  The Justice Department appealed the decision and on 22 April 2011 a three judge panel at the federal court of appeal reversed the lower court’s decision, sending the case back for further hearings.  On 6 June 2011, the defendants filed a petition asking the full court of appeal to review the panel’s decision.  On 19 July 2011, the court of appeal unanimously rejected defendants’ request. The Blackwater guards petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on 21 October 2011, but on 4 June 2012 the Court declined to hear the appeal.

On 17 October 2013 the US Deptartment of Justice filed new charges against four of the individual Blackwater security guards charging them with voluntary manslaughter and other crimes.  On 22 October 2014, a jury found the four guards guilty of murder and manslaughter.  The jurors rejected the guards' claims that they had acted in self-defence.  On 13 April 2014, the guards were each sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

On 1 February 2016, the four guards appealed their convictions on the grounds that a key witness for the prosecution changed his testimony, and that the prosecutors lacked jurisdiction to bring the case under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, as the guards were acting under the State Department authority, not military. 

On 17 January, two former Blackwater Security guards appealed their sentences, arguing a witness lied during their trial.

- "Ex-Blackwater Guards Given Long Terms for Killing Iraqis", Matt Apuzzo, New York Times, 13 Apr 2015

- "Four Blackwater guards found guilty in 2007 Iraq shootings of 31 unarmed civilians", Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, 22 Oct 2014
- "New charges brought against former Blackwater guards in Baghdad shooting", Sari Horwitz, Washington Post, 17 Oct 2013
- "Supreme Court rejects Blackwater Iraq shooting appeal", James Vicini, Reuters, 4 Jun 2012
- "Blackwater successor settles Baghdad shooting suit", AP, 7 Jan 2012
- "Blackwater Guards Pitch Manslaughter Case to U.S. Supreme Court", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 24 Oct 2011
- "D.C. Circuit Refuses to Rehear Blackwater Manslaughter Case", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 19 Jul 2011
- "Former Blackwater Guards Challenge Appeals Court Ruling", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 6 Jun 2011
- "Appeals court revives Blackwater case", Nedra Pickler, AP, 22 Apr 2011
- "Judge returns Iraq shooting suit to NC court", Mike Baker, AP, 27 Jan 2011
- "Blackwater on Nisour Square Killings: 'US at Fault'", Al Jazeera English, 17 Dec 2010
- "Blackwater settles series of civil lawsuits", Mike Baker, AP, 7 Jan 2010
- "Charges Against Blackwater Guards Dismissed in Iraq Killings", Charlie Savage, New York Times, 31 Dec 2009
- “Blackwater Shootings of Iraqis Unprovoked, Say Prosecutors”, Lara Jakes Jordan & Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press, 9 Dec 2008
- “Blackwater Chairman Defends His Guards Against Allegations of Unprovoked Attack on Iraqis”, Sean Maroney, Voice of America, 14 Oct 2007
- “Family Members of Slain Iraqis Sue Blackwater USA for Deadly Baghdad Shooting”, Democracy Now, 11 Oct 2007

- “Iraqi Report Says Blackwater Guards Fired First”, Sabrina Tavernise & James Glanz, New York Times, 18 Sep 2007

- “Blackwater Denies Any Wrongdoing in Shooting Incident”, Ken Fireman & Robin Stringer, Bloomberg, 17 Sep 2007

- US Department of Justice: Five Blackwater Employees Indicted on Manslaughter and Weapons Charges for Fatal Nisur Square Shooting in Iraq, 8 Dec 2008

 

- Center for Constitutional Rights [plaintiffs' co-counsel]:
     - Blackwater USA Sued for Firing on Iraqi Civilians, According to Legal Team for Injured Survivor and Families of Three Killed, 11 Oct 2007
     - Abtan, et al. v. Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, Inc., et al. - Case synopsis [includes links to legal documents]
     - Albazzaz & Aziz v. Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, et al. - Case synopsis [includes links to legal documents]

- [PDF] In re: Blackwater Alien Tort Claims Act Litigation - Consolidated Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, 24 Jul 2009
- [PDF] Estate of Atban, et al. v. Xe/Blackwater, et al. - First Amended Complaint, 1 Jul 2009
- [PDF] Estate of Himoud Saed Atban, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia - Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, 22 Jan 2008
- [PDF] Estate of Himoud Saed Atban, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia - Amended Complaint, 26 Nov 2007

- [PDF] Estate of Himoud Saed Atban, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia - Complaint, 11 Oct 2007 

 

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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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Article
1 July 2014

US State Department reports reveal investigation into Blackwater operations in Iraq before 2007 shooting was abandoned after death threat

Author: James Risen, New York Times

"Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater", 29 June 2014

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor's operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater's top manager there issued a threat: "that he could kill" the government's chief investigator and "no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq," according to department reports. American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy's relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports. After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created "an environment full of liability and negligence.""The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become  subservient to the contractors themselves," the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials. "Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law," he said, adding that the "hands off" management resulted in a situation in which "the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control." His memo and other newly disclosed State Department documents make clear that the department was alerted to serious problems involving Blackwater and its government overseers before the Nisour Square shooting, which outraged Iraqis and deepened resentment over the United States' presence in the country...The State Department declined to comment on the aborted investigation. A spokesman for Erik Prince, the founder and former chief executive of Blackwater, who sold the company in 2010, said Mr. Prince had never been told about the matter. 

 

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Article
15 May 2014

Washington Denies Involvement of US Mercenaries in Ukraine

Author: RIA Novosti

[T]he White House National Security Council has denied...media reports that claim hundreds of well-trained US mercenaries are involved in the Ukraine conflict...The news came after the German newspapers Bild am Sonntag and Der Spiegel said...some 400 elite commandos from...Academi...were taking part in the “anti-terror” operation mounted by the self-styled Ukrainian interim government against its own people in the country’s east and south...Following reports on its secret presence in Ukraine, US National Security Council...cited the military firm’s official denial published on its webpage...In its statement, Academi blamed some “irresponsible bloggers and an online reporter” for posting “rumors” that its employees are present in Ukraine. “They are not and Academi has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater or with the former owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince,”...

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Article
+ Français - Hide

Author: ISO

À la suite de différents incidents – usage de la force et de la torture, massacre de civils innocents – de nombreuses voix se sont élevées contre ces entreprises [de sécurité privées (ESP)] opérant parfois, semble-t-il, au mépris des règles du droit. C’est dans ce contexte qu’un nouveau comité de projet de l’ISO a commencé à travailler sur un cadre international pour aider le secteur de la sécurité à adopter de bonnes pratiques et à mieux répondre de ses actes…Pour les clients et pour la société civile, la mise en œuvre d’une norme par une ESP est un élément rassurant qui montre que l’entreprise prend toutes les mesures nécessaires pour minimiser les risques et respecter les droits de l’homme...Un appel à contribution est donc ainsi lancé...[fait référence à Academi (anciennement Blackwater), Blackwater]

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Article
10 May 2014

Blackwater guard charged over Baghdad murder [Iraq/USA]

Author: Al Jazeera

A grand jury has charged a former security guard for Blackwater, the US private security company, with murder for his alleged role in a 2007 shooting of unarmed civilians in Baghdad. A federal appeals court last month effectively ended a manslaughter case against the guard, Nicholas Slatten, but prosecutors had signaled they might seek a new indictment against him. The charge comes just weeks before three other former Blackwater guards are scheduled to face trial on manslaughter charges...The indictment...charges Slatten with the murder of one person, the driver of a white Kia sedan, which was the first shooting in the square. [refers to Academi]

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Article
30 April 2014

[PDF] Private Military & Security Companies and their impacts on human rights: Recent developments

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In relation to reported negative human rights impacts by PMSCs, some continue to occur in areas of conflict or weak governance such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, but we have seen a rising of reports alleging abuses in other regions, especially in South America...[I]n Brazil the security firm Gaspem was allegedly involved in violence against indigenous people, and in Honduras security firms were reportedly involved in the alleged killing, kidnapping and forced evictions of farmers. It is concerning to see various reports of abuses by PSMCs that provide detention centres services, mainly catering to immigrants or asylum seekers: In Papua New Guinea, G4S allegedly used excessive force in suppressing a riot at an immigration detention centre; in the UK, Serco guards were investigated after allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour at an immigration removal centre. Recent reports restate concerns about the UN use of PMSCs’ allegedly involved in abuses...Developments on PMSCs’ legal accountability happened not just through lawsuits, but also via non-judicial mechanisms, such as the OECD complaints system...[A]complaint was submitted to the OECD National Contact Point in Spain to investigate alleged abuses of freedom of association by Prosegur in South America. [refers to Orion, InfraVest, Hi Tan Security, Askar Security, Delta Protection, UPS, KBR, Aircelle, Olive Group]

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Article
8 April 2014

Judge criticizes State Department over Blackwater shooting case [USA/Iraq]

Author: Reuters

A federal judge...harshly criticized the U.S. State Department over its handling of a 2007 shooting in Baghdad involving Blackwater Worldwide security guards and asked the agency's watchdog to investigate problems that helped delay a related criminal case. The prosecution of the former guards, who were charged with manslaughter in the killing of 14 unarmed civilians, has dragged on for years amid problems with evidence. "If the Department of State and Diplomatic Security Service had tried deliberately to sabotage this prosecution, they could hardly have done a better job," U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who is overseeing the criminal case against the former guards, said in an opinion...He asked the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, which is prosecuting the case, to ask the inspector general of the State Department to fully investigate the problems.

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Lawsuit
18 February 2014

Blackwater USA lawsuit (re 16 Sep 2007 Baghdad incident)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

On 16 September 2007, a group of Blackwater personnel providing security for a US State Department convoy in Baghdad were involved in a shooting incident in which shots were fired at civilians.  As many as 17 Iraqis were killed, and over 10 injured.  On 11 October 2007, a survivor and the estates of three victims of the attack filed a lawsuit under the Alien Tort Claims Act in US federal court against Blackwater, its parent company The Prince Group, and Blackwater founder and chairman Erik Prince.  The plaintiffs claim that Blackwater is liable for extrajudicial killings and war crimes because its employees opened fire on unarmed civilians.  The plaintiffs’ claims also include wrongful death and negligent hiring, training and supervision by Blackwater of its personnel.  In an interview, Erik Prince said the lawsuit was “politically motivated” and without basis.  In July 2009, the court consolidated this case with five other lawsuits based on similar facts.  On 6 January 2010, parties to five of the consolidated lawsuits announced that they had reached a settlement with the defendants, while the suit filed on behalf of the three victims of the 2007 incident continued.  In December 2010, Blackwater argued that the US government, and not the company itself, should be held accountable for the shooting incident because it was providing security to State Department personnel.  In January 2011, District Judge Terrence Boyle ruled that nonresidents are unable to sue in federal court for injuries sustained outside the country and sent the case back to a North Carolina court, where the suit was first filed.  The company, now known as Academi, settled this lawsuit out of court in January 2012.  The terms of the settlement are confidential.

 

On 8 December 2008, the US Department of Justice filed criminal charges against five individual Blackwater security guards with regard to the same incident.  The Department of Justice did not file charges against the company.  The defendants were charged with 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter.  A sixth guard pleaded guilty to lesser charges in return for cooperating with the government.  On 31 December 2009, the judge in this case dismissed the lawsuit. The judge stated that the Department of Justice's mishandling of the case required the indictments to be dismissed.  The Justice Department appealed the decision and on 22 April 2011 a three judge panel at the federal court of appeal reversed the lower court’s decision, sending the case back for further hearings.  On 6 June 2011, the defendants filed a petition asking the full court of appeal to review the panel’s decision.  On 19 July 2011, the court of appeal unanimously rejected defendants’ request. The Blackwater guards petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on 21 October 2011, but on 4 June 2012 the Court declined to hear the appeal.

On 17 October the US Deptartment of Justice filed new charges against four of the individual Blackwater security guards charging them with voluntary manslaughter and other crimes.

- "New charges brought against former Blackwater guards in Baghdad shooting", Sari Horwitz, Washington Post, 17 Oct 2013
- "Supreme Court rejects Blackwater Iraq shooting appeal", James Vicini, Reuters, 4 Jun 2012
- "Blackwater successor settles Baghdad shooting suit", AP, 7 Jan 2012
- "Blackwater Guards Pitch Manslaughter Case to U.S. Supreme Court", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 24 Oct 2011
- "D.C. Circuit Refuses to Rehear Blackwater Manslaughter Case", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 19 Jul 2011
- "Former Blackwater Guards Challenge Appeals Court Ruling", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 6 Jun 2011
- "Appeals court revives Blackwater case", Nedra Pickler, AP, 22 Apr 2011
- "Judge returns Iraq shooting suit to NC court", Mike Baker, AP, 27 Jan 2011
- "Blackwater on Nisour Square Killings: 'US at Fault'", Al Jazeera English, 17 Dec 2010
- "Blackwater settles series of civil lawsuits", Mike Baker, AP, 7 Jan 2010
- "Charges Against Blackwater Guards Dismissed in Iraq Killings", Charlie Savage, New York Times, 31 Dec 2009
- “Blackwater Shootings of Iraqis Unprovoked, Say Prosecutors”, Lara Jakes Jordan & Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press, 9 Dec 2008
- “Blackwater Chairman Defends His Guards Against Allegations of Unprovoked Attack on Iraqis”, Sean Maroney, Voice of America, 14 Oct 2007
- “Family Members of Slain Iraqis Sue Blackwater USA for Deadly Baghdad Shooting”, Democracy Now, 11 Oct 2007

- “Iraqi Report Says Blackwater Guards Fired First”, Sabrina Tavernise & James Glanz, New York Times, 18 Sep 2007

- “Blackwater Denies Any Wrongdoing in Shooting Incident”, Ken Fireman & Robin Stringer, Bloomberg, 17 Sep 2007

- US Department of Justice: Five Blackwater Employees Indicted on Manslaughter and Weapons Charges for Fatal Nisur Square Shooting in Iraq, 8 Dec 2008

 

- Center for Constitutional Rights [plaintiffs' co-counsel]:
     - Blackwater USA Sued for Firing on Iraqi Civilians, According to Legal Team for Injured Survivor and Families of Three Killed, 11 Oct 2007
     - Abtan, et al. v. Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, Inc., et al. - Case synopsis [includes links to legal documents]
     - Albazzaz & Aziz v. Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, et al. - Case synopsis [includes links to legal documents]

- [PDF] In re: Blackwater Alien Tort Claims Act Litigation - Consolidated Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, 24 Jul 2009
- [PDF] Estate of Atban, et al. v. Xe/Blackwater, et al. - First Amended Complaint, 1 Jul 2009
- [PDF] Estate of Himoud Saed Atban, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia - Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, 22 Jan 2008
- [PDF] Estate of Himoud Saed Atban, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia - Amended Complaint, 26 Nov 2007

- [PDF] Estate of Himoud Saed Atban, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia - Complaint, 11 Oct 2007 

Article
22 November 2013

Blackwater founder: my company could have prevented Benghazi deaths (Libya)

Author: Spencer Ackerman, Guardian (UK)

The founder of the world’s most infamous private security company believes the National Security Agency is overstepping its authorities and that he could have prevented the death of a US ambassador last year in Benghazi...Prince said the company, which used to protect US diplomats in warzones, could have made a difference in last year's attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. "I'm confident if we had been on the job in Benghazi, Ambassador Stevens would still be alive," Prince said. No US diplomats, Prince pointed out, died under Blackwater's protection. "They depended on basically a local militia, a company that hired local Libyans – unvetted, untrained – and even ill-equipped," Prince said.

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Article
30 October 2013

[PDF] Private military & security companies & their impacts on human rights - Bulletin Issue 5

Author: Compiled by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Welcome to our fifth PMSC Bulletin. To assist those interested in private military & security companies (PMSCs) and their impacts on human rights, we publish this bulletin semi-annually to highlight key developments reported by NGOs, governments, journalists and others including PMSCs themselves. Previous bulletins are available here. We also invite you to consult our website and Business, Conflict & Peace Portal, which provide more resources and information about PMSCs. If you would like us to consider including something in the next bulletin, know someone who would like to receive the bulletin, or wish to unsubscribe, please contact Irene Pietropaoli: pietropaoli(at)business-humanrights.org [Refers to Bicuar, Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, Teleservice, Endiama, BAE Systems, G4S, Eulen, MagForce, Tian Jin MyWay, Nikuv Intl. Projects, CACI, Blackwater, KBR, AlliedBarton, Servicios Especiales de Seguridad Privada, Bryant Security]

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