Iraq: perpetrators of killings cannot stay unpunished – UN rights experts

7 January 2010 – A team of United Nations independent experts today called for those behind the 2007 incident where 17 people were killed in the Iraqi capital to be brought to justice, following the dismissal of an indictment against five private security guards by a United States court.

In response to the decision by the US Federal District Court for the District of Columbia to throw out the case against the American security company Blackwater, Iraq announced that it will sue the security firm in both American and Iraqi courts in connection with the 2007 Nissour Square shooting, in which 20 people were also seriously injured.

The five Blackwater guards had been charged with voluntary manslaughter and firearms violations, and the US Government can appeal against the 31 December decision by Judge Ricardo M. Urbina that the evidence against the accused was inadmissible.

The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries today called on the Governments of the US and Iraq to cooperate to ensure that the incident is fully remedied and that those responsible are held accountable.

“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,” Shaista Shameem, head of the Working Group, said in a media statement.

On the heels of the dismissal of the indictment in the US court, “the Iraqi Government and the families of victims correctly feel they have no recourse to justice for the alleged human rights abuses” that took place in Nissour Square,” she added.

Under Coalition Provisional Authority Order No. 17, American contractors operating in Iraq have been granted immunity from Iraqi laws.

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

The Working Group was established in 2005 by the Commission on Human Rights, which has since been succeeded by the Human Rights Council, and is calling for an international oversight mechanism to provide an avenue of redress for victims.

It comprises five experts serving in their personal capacities. They are: Ms. Shameem of Fiji, Najat al-Hajjaji of Libya, Amada Benavides de Pérez of Colombia, José Luis Gómez del Prado of Spain, and Alexander Nikitin of Russia.


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