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Supreme Court Upholds Manslaughter Charges In Blackwater Iraqi Massacre

Supreme Court Upholds Manslaughter Charges In Blackwater Iraqi Massacre

Blackwater Worldwide security guard Donald Ball leave federal court in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009, after pleading not guilty to manslaughter charges. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Four private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide stationed in Iraq in 2007 will not be allowed to appeal manslaughter and weapons charges brought against them, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week.
The four former employees of the private military company – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Donald Ball – will face criminal charges for their involvement in the Sept. 16, 2007 massacre that killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded 20 others.
Those involved claim they were acting in self-defense, however, witnesses allege that the Americans were never in any danger and that shots were fired randomly at unarmed civilians, including Ali Kinnani, a 9-year-old boy who was killed in the shooting while riding in the passenger’s seat of his father’s car.

Security guards’ rights violated, charges dropped
In December 2009, a U.S. federal judge dismissed the criminal charges brought against the former employees for the 2007 shooting.
The judge criticized how the Justice Department handled the case, claiming prosecutors tried “to use statements from defendants who had been offered immunity and testimony from witnesses tainted by news media leaks” and therefore violated the security guards’ rights.
However, investigators with the U.S. military and the FBI concluded that the deadly force generated by the security guards was not justified.
After the federal ruling, reports claimed that Blackwater paid some victims’ families approximately $100,000 for each death. The company then released a statement saying it was “pleased” with the outcome.
After the incident, relations between Iraq and the United States were severely strained, especially considering the event, known as the Nisour Square massacre, was the single bloodiest episode that involved private military employees during the war in Iraq.
Soon after the event, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to ban Blackwater from working in the country. According to a New York Times report, the Justice Department investigated allegations that the security company attempted to bribe Iraqi government officials with $1 million after the shooting in order to keep its business with the United States.
The incident highlighted the controversy over hiring private security companies to perform work previously handled by military units.
According to reports, four Blackwater-manned armored vehicles stopped at Nisour Square, a busy intersection in Baghdad. Within 15 minutes, dozens of unarmed civilians were shot, nearly half fatally.

Charges reinstated, appeal lost
The U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the charges in April 2011 after months of testimony behind closed doors.
On Monday, an application submitted to the Supreme Court appealing the reinstated charges was denied, keeping the ruling intact that the security guards could be tried for their actions.
A fifth guard, Nicholas Slatten, has already had the charges against him dismissed. A sixth guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, has agreed to work with investigators and has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Ridgeway was serving as a turret gunner for the company during the incident and said in a sworn statement that the Americans “opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians…killing at least fourteen people.”
He added, “None of these victims was an insurgent, and many were shot while inside of civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee.”
According to statements made by guards in the convoy who did not participate in the shooting, they were “horrified” by the incident and reports claim that two suspects – Liberty and Slough – gave each other high-fives after the massacre was over.
Blackwater Worldwide changed its name to Xe Services after the controversy and then to Academi, under which it is currently operates.

Source: MPN


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