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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
6 January 2009

Blackwater guards plead not guilty to Iraqi deaths [USA]

Author: Associated Press

Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges in the 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad...Prosecutors said the men unleashed a gruesome attack on unarmed Iraqis, including women and children. The Blackwater guards contend they opened fire after coming under attack when a car in a State Department convoy they were escorting broke down.

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Article
10 December 2008

Iraqis applaud charges against Blackwater guards

Author: Tina Susman & Usama Redha, Los Angeles Times

...[It] is hard to imagine the carnage that erupted here in Nisoor Square in September 2007, when Blackwater Worldwide security guards killed at least 17 Iraqis in a hail of machine-gun bullets and grenades... Five Blackwater employees, all of them U.S. military veterans, were charged Monday with manslaughter and attempted manslaughter... The current Blackwater defendants...could face decades in prison in the United States if convicted, something that pleases Iraqis such as Ali Abdul Ali.

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Article
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Author: AFP

Cinq agents de la société de sécurité privée Blackwater ont été inculpés pour leur responsabilité dans une fusillade qui avait coûté la vie à 17 civils irakiens à Bagdad en septembre 2007...Une enquête irakienne sur ce drame parle de "meurtre avec préméditation"...La société a régulièrement affirmé que ces agents n'avaient fait que répliquer après avoir essuyé des tirs. Mais l'enquête irakienne a conclu que le convoi n'avait même pas reçu un jet de pierre.

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Article
14 November 2008

Feds draft indictment against Blackwater guards [USA]

Author: Lara Jakes Jordan, Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press

More than a year after Blackwater Worldwide security guards opened fire in a crowded Baghdad square, top Justice Department prosecutors are reviewing a draft indictment against six of the contractors...

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Article
28 October 2008

[PDF] Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches world’s first online portal profiling human rights lawsuits against companies

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches a free online portal – the first to bring together and demystify lawsuits from across the world alleging human rights abuses by companies. The portal summarises in non-legal language over 35 cases and the positions of each side, with more cases to be added soon. It also presents special commentaries by experts...Companies in profiled lawsuits include: AngloGold Ashanti, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Biwater, Blackwater, BP, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron/Texaco, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Dow/Union Carbide, Drummond, DynCorp, ExxonMobil, Firestone, Ford, Freeport-McMoRan, IBM, Mitsubishi, Nike, Occidental, Rio Tinto, Severstal, Shell, Standard Chartered, Talisman, Trafigura, Total, UBS, Wal-Mart, Yahoo!

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Article
4 September 2008

[DOC] Presentation to the 4th session of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, New York, 4 September 2008

Author: Annabel Short, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

The human rights challenges posed by the increasing privatization of security are immense. Yet in some respects the space for addressing these challenges is opening up. High-profile incidents such as the 16 September 2007 killings involving Blackwater at Nisour Square in Baghdad have put a spotlight on the accountability gap. And never before have so many groups and institutions paid attention to this subject (either directly or within a broader context)...[also refers to KBR, GEO, Teleservice, Endiama, ITM Mining, Lazare Kaplan, Risks Incorporated, Jewels Star, Madrid Metro]

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Article
16 January 2008

Blackwater Case Faces Obstacles, Justice Dept. Says [USA]

Author: James Risen & David Johnston, New York Times

Justice Department officials have told Congress that they face serious legal difficulties in pursuing criminal prosecutions of Blackwater security guards involved in a September shooting that left at least 17 Iraqis dead. In a private briefing in mid-December, officials from the Justice and State Departments…warned…that there were major legal obstacles that might prevent any prosecution…[O]ne [problem] arose when State Department investigators granted Blackwater employees a limited form of immunity for what they disclosed. There are also questions about whether federal law applies to the Blackwater contractors. Justice officials have acknowledged the potential problems, but they have said they were not insurmountable and reiterated that point on Tuesday.

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Article
28 November 2007

Blackwater Lawsuit Says Order Ignored [USA]

Author: Laura Jakes Jordan, Associated Press

A lawsuit against government contractor Blackwater Worldwide accuses its bodyguards of ignoring a direct order and abandoning their post shortly before taking part in a shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 Iraqi civilians. Filed this week in U.S. District Court in Washington, the complaint also accuses…Blackwater of failing to give drug tests to its guards in Baghdad…. A Blackwater spokeswoman said Tuesday its employees are banned from using steroids or other enhancement drugs but declined to comment on the other charges detailed in the 18-page lawsuit.

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Article
26 October 2007

British security co. sued over death of US soldier

Author: Luke Baker, Reuters

A British private security company is being sued in the United States over the death of a U.S. soldier hit by one of its convoys in Iraq…. The case [is] believed to be the first of its kind…. The case against Erinys, filed in a court in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday and also in London, was brought by Perry Monroe, father of Christopher Monroe, a U.S. soldier who was struck by an Erinys vehicle while on duty in southern Iraq in October 2005…. Erinys, which provided security to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the time of the incident, denied any wrongdoing. [also refers to Blackwater]

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Article
19 October 2007

[video] Bill Moyers talks with journalist Jeremy Scahill - Part 2

Author: Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal [USA]

["I think we're in the midst of the most radical privatization in our nation's history," Scahill explains to Bill Moyers. "We of course see it in schools. We see it in the health care system, in prisons. And now, we're seeing it full blown in the war machine." - Refers to the recent lawsuit against Blackwater re. 16 Sep 2007 Baghdad incident)]

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