Sunday, January 3, 2010
Criminal charges dismissed? Iraq responds with lawyers
From Baghdad comes word that Iraq's government plans to help victims of the notorious 2007 shooting in Nisour Square to file lawsuits in the United States against private security guards working for the U.S. government. An Iraqi government spokesman called "unacceptable and unjust" last week's decision by a U.S. judge to dismiss murder and other charges against five employees of Blackwater Worldwide, then the largest U.S. security contractor, according to the Reuters international news service. Fourteen civilians were killed in the 2007 shooting when guards protecting a U.S. convoy opened fire in a crowded Baghdad intersection. The guards claimed they were reacting to gunfire and an explosion when they began shooting, but Iraqi witnesses said the guards shot indiscriminately. "The government will facilitate a lawsuit from Iraqi citizens to sue the guards and the company in a U.S. court," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters. Al-Dabbagh also said the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad would ask the U.S. Justice Department in Washington to review the decision by Judge Ricardo M. Urbina throwing out the charges. The shooting provoked widespread outrage in Iraq and led to a new agreement between Washington and Baghdad that lifted immunity provisions that had protected the private guards from Iraqi law. Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services after the shooting, and Iraq barred the company from working in the country. Dabbagh said Iraq was investigating whether any Blackwater employees were still in the country, Reuters said. "We don't want any member of this company, which committed more than one crime in Iraq, to work in Iraq," Dabbagh said.