Iraq outraged as Blackwater case is dropped

Saying it was "astonished" by a US court's decision to drop manslaughter charges against private security guards who were accused of killing 17 civilians caught up in a Baghdad traffic jam, the Iraqi government yesterday promised to continue its battle to secure justice for the victims of "people who like to shoot unarmed people".

Wejdan Mikhail, the country's Human Rights Minister, said she would now support efforts to bring civil charges against the Blackwater employees accused of firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades at cars negotiating a roundabout in Nisur Square just over two years ago.

A judge in Washington ruled late on Thursday that the high-profile case, which sparked allegations of a culture of lawlessness and unaccountability at Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq, should be thrown out due to an apparent legal technicality.

The five men, who pleaded not guilty and claimed they acted in self defence, will not face a trial for manslaughter, after Ricardo Urbina, a federal judge, decided that there had been "procedural errors" in the way evidence against them was collected.

Ms Mikhail has demanded a meeting with US embassy officials in Baghdad to hear an explanation of why the criminal case was dropped. "I don't understand why the judge took this decision," she told the news agency AFP. "They killed innocent Iraqi people that were just in their cars without any weapons. I am very astonished. So many innocent Iraqis – young, students – were shot by someone who liked to shoot unarmed people."

The bloodbath, which occurred in September 2007, threw an uncomfortable spotlight on the Bush government's policy of using private security firms (many of which had links with the Republican administration) in war zones.

Investigators concluded that the guards, who were escorting a convoy of armoured vehicles, indiscriminately fired on locals stuck in a traffic jam. They claimed to have been responding to incoming fire, but there is little evidence that any victims were armed.

The decision was welcomed by Blackwater, which lost its US government contracts in Baghdad after the killings and has subsequently changed its name to Xe. But General Ray Odierno, the commander of US forces in Iraq, said the ruling will heighten hostility faced by security workers and troops in Iraq.

Left-leaning US politicians described it as an affront to human rights. "A question I've been asking for a long time is, 'Can private military contractors actually get away with murder?'" said Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives who has sponsored legislation to outlaw the use of private contractors in war zones. "This indicates that the answer is yes."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Showroom Manager - Maternity Cover

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for an Assista...

Recruitment Genius: Java Developer - Birmingham - Jewellery Quarter

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is in the serviced...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Ember JS - Birmingham

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is in the serviced...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Purchaser

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: his is a unique opportunity to ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss