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
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration Engineer

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These refrigeration specialists...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Logistics and Supply Chain

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an operational role and...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Sheet Metal Worker / Fabricator

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working within the workshop of ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist high tech compa...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral