UN concerned over US court decision on Blackwater killings in Iraq

U.N. rights experts have concerned over the decision of U.S. court to dismiss the case against Blackwater guards, charged with killing over 14 Iraqi civilians.

UN concerned over US court decision on Blackwater killings in Iraq

U.N. human rights experts expressed concerns over recent decision of U.S. court to dismiss the case against Blackwater guards, charged with 2007 killing of at least 14 Iraqi civilians, may lead to a situation where no one would be accountable for grave human rights violations.

Iraq said on Monday it would launch lawsuits in U.S. and Iraqi courts against the U.S. security firm for the Baghdad killings, rejecting a U.S. judge's decision last week to throw out the charges.

In a statement, the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries said the case underscored the need for "credible oversight" of private security companies working for the United States and other governments in war zones.

Baghdad and Washington must cooperate to resolve the killings committed at a Baghdad traffic circle in Sept. 2007, with "those responsible fully held accountable", it said.

Private guards protecting U.S. personnel were given immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts following the 2003 U.S. invasion.

"We respect the independence of the United States judiciary and the requirements for due process, but are very concerned that the recent decision to dismiss the case against Blackwater guards may lead to a situation where no one would be accountable for grave human rights violations," said Shaista Shameem, who chairs the U.N. group of independent experts.

The Iraqi government and victims' families felt that they had no recourse to justice, she added.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said prosecutors had wrongly used statements the guards made to State Department investigators under threat of job loss -- thereby violating their constitutional rights.

The five guards were charged a year ago with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts of attempted manslaughter and one weapons violation count. The U.N. working group said 17 people had been killed and a further 20 injured.

The guards from Blackwater, which has renamed itself Xe Services, say they fired in self-defence in the incident. But witnesses and victims say the guards, escorting a heavily armed convoy of U.S. diplomats through Baghdad traffic, shot indiscriminately.

"Credible oversight and accountability of private security companies working on the behalf of the United States and other governments remain essential to avoid these alleged violations to be unpunished in future," Shameem said.

The 47-member-state U.N. Human Rights Council has asked the experts to report by September on a possible international treaty to regulate private military and security companies.

A treaty would "provide an avenue of redress to victims", Shameem said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2010, 08:39
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