Black People : Judge Dismisses All Charges Against Blackwater Guards in Nisoor Square Massacre

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  1. RAPTOR

    RAPTOR Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    DEMOCRACY NOW! - A federal judge in Washington, DC has thrown out all
    charges against the five Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 Nisoor
    Square massacre that killed seventeen Iraqi civilians. Judge Ricardo Urbina
    handed down his ruling late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve. Urbina
    accused the Justice Department of building its case on sworn statements
    that the guards had given under a promise of immunity. We speak with
    attorney Scott Horton.


    AMY GOODMAN: A federal judge in Washington has dismissed all
    charges against the five Blackwater operatives accused of gunning down
    fourteen innocent Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square in September of 2007.

    Judge Ricardo Urbina’s dismissal of the charges on New Year’s Eve was met
    with outrage in Iraq. The Iraqi prime minister’s spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh
    vowed to pursue the case and called Judge Urbina’s dismissal, quote, “unfair
    and unacceptable.”

    ALI AL-DABBAGH: We are sorry that the federal judge had
    that verdict. We keep them and we hold them criminals, as per our
    investigation here in Baghdad. The Blackwater personnel, those five people,
    they had used excessive force, and they didn’t follow the rule of
    engagement, and they had killed innocent Iraqis. We reserve the right of our
    victims, Iraqis and all the citizens, which has been harmed during this
    criminal act. We reserve the right to follow and to bring them to the justice.​

    AMY GOODMAN: Al-Dabbagh also indicated that the Iraqi government
    would support a lawsuit filed in US courts by victims of the shooting against
    the five security guards from Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. That’s
    X-e.

    Last Thursday, Judge Urbina dismissed the charges against the five
    Blackwater guards, saying US Justice Department prosecutors had built their
    case on sworn statements that the guards had given under a promise of
    immunity. He said the government’s explanations were,
    quote, “contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility.”

    Defense lawyers called the decision, quote, “tremendously gratifying” and
    said it invigorated their belief in the American court system.

    Meanwhile, General Ray Odierno, the American commander in Iraq, said he
    understood that people would be upset by the decision, but added,
    quote, “the bottom line is, using the rule of law, the evidence obviously was
    not there, or was collected illegally.”

    Well, for more on this, I’m joined here in New York by attorney Scott Horton.
    He is a contributor to Harper’s Magazine, an international law expert.

    Welcome to Democracy Now!

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that’s possible?

    SCOTT HORTON: I think it is possible. Specifically in this case, there
    were briefings that occurred on Capitol Hill early on in which senior officials
    of the Justice Department told congressional investigators, staffers and
    congressmen that essentially they didn’t want to bring the case. In fact,
    one of the congressmen who was present at these briefings told me they
    were behaving like defense lawyers putting together a case to defend the
    Blackwater employees, not to prosecute them. And I think we see the
    evidence of that copiously in Judge Urbina’s opinion.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to play a clip of Dr. Jawad, who lost both his
    wife, Mohasin, and his son, Ahmed, in the Blackwater shootings on
    September 16, 2007. In this excerpt, we hear Dr. Jawad describing how he
    came to learn of what had happened to his family. He had been waiting that
    day for his wife and son to pick him up from work. He was a doctor. When
    he returned home alone that afternoon, he was worried not to find them
    there. He called his brother, who went to the morgue after failing to find
    them at the emergency room and operating theater of a local hospital. Dr.
    Jawad is being translated from Arabic.

    SCOTT HORTON: Good to be with you, Amy.

    AMY GOODMAN: Were you surprised, Scott?

    SCOTT HORTON: Well, we knew this was going to be an issue. I think
    it was surprising that we got a decision before any evidence was ever taken
    and it went to trial. And in fact, you know, I think the vehemence of Judge
    Urbina’s decision is also something of a surprise.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain exactly what it was he decided and
    what it was he was objecting to.

    SCOTT HORTON: Well, first of all, I should note that General Odierno’s
    statement is completely incorrect; that is, the decision to dismiss these
    charges had nothing to do with lack of evidence or weak evidence against
    the Blackwater employees. To the contrary, there was copious evidence.
    There was plenty of evidence prosecutors could have used that they
    evidently weren’t prepared to, including eyewitnesses there. The decision to
    dismiss was taken as a punishment measure against Justice Department
    prosecutors based on the judge’s conclusion that they engaged in grossly
    unethical and improper behavior in putting the case together.

    And specifically what they did is they took statements that were taken by
    the Department of State against a grant of immunity; that is, the
    government investigators told the guards, “Give us your statement, be
    candid, be complete, and we promise you we won’t use your statement for
    any criminal charges against you.” But the Justice Department prosecutors
    took those statements and in fact used them. They used them before the
    grand jury. They used them to build their entire case. And they did this
    notwithstanding warnings from senior lawyers in the Justice Department that
    this was improper and could lead to dismissal of the case. It almost looks like
    the Justice Department prosecutors here wanted to sabotage their own
    case. It was so outrageous.

    DR. JAWAD: [translated] He went to the morgue, and the person
    who was responsible for the morgue told him that they received sixteen
    bodies as casualties from the incident that day. They were all identified,
    identifiable, except for two. Two bodies completely burnt and disfigured.
    They were put in black plastic bags.

    My brother, on that day, in the morning, he was in the hospital, and he heard
    the shots, and he heard helicopters and shooting from helicopters. It was a
    battle, a fight, a war. And, of course, it didn’t occur to him that my wife and
    my son were the victims—among the victims of the incident. My wife, what
    remained from his head is only the jaws and part of the neck. I identified her
    from the dental bridge, has a lot of dental bridge. And my son, what
    remained from his clothes was only part of the shoes and socks.​

    AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jawad, talking about what happened to his wife
    and his son, as they were gunned down in Nisoor Square by the Blackwater
    operatives. Now the case against them has been dismissed. Scott Horton,
    can another case be brought against them?

    SCOTT HORTON: Absolutely. In fact, this decision puts the US in
    breach of its treaty obligations to prosecute this case, which was an
    absolute international law obligation. Now, this case was being prosecuted in
    US court because of an order that was issued by the US occupation
    authorities that granted these people immunity from Iraqi criminal
    prosecution and accountability.

    And I think the rule of international law is quite well settled. If the US
    cannot, for technical reasons—that’s this ruling here, it is purely technical,
    has nothing to do with the merits of the case—if the US cannot, for
    technical reasons, prosecute the case, the US is really obligated to waive
    the immunity under that order and surrender these individuals to the Iraqi
    authorities for prosecution, probably with an agreement as to what charges
    will be brought and an agreement that any prison term they were sentenced
    to could be served in the United States.

    In addition to that, there’s also the possibility, that was alluded to in the
    setup here, for a civil action, and civil claims on behalf of the families of the
    victims are already pending in US courts. And the Iraqi government has now
    announced it’s going to directly support those claims.

    AMY GOODMAN: What about the civil lawsuit that’s been brought
    against the Blackwater guards?

    SCOTT HORTON: Well, that will be for damages. And the evidence of
    their culpability is quite overwhelming. You know, one of the surprising things
    about this case before Judge Urbina is that the prosecutors were developing
    their entire case based on the statements that had been issued by the
    guards. Well, they didn’t need to do that. There were dozens of
    eyewitnesses in Iraq who were only too happy to come forward and testify
    about what happened and what was seen. And there was an incredible
    amount of forensic evidence of what occurred that day. So there’s plenty of
    evidence to be used. Plus, of course, in a civil suit, the standard for liability
    is a lower standard. It’s not beyond a reasonable doubt; it’s rather by
    preponderance of the evidence.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read for you an excerpt of a Wall Street
    Journal editorial that talks about this being another instance of “gross
    prosecutorial misconduct, as abusive Justice lawyers went after an
    unsympathetic political target…

    “Something is rotten in the culture of Justice, leading ambitious”—it says—
    “ambitious government crusaders to think they can get away with flouting
    due process when the political winds are blowing hot. Congress and the
    press corps may be too politically implicated to police this prosecutorial
    malpractice, so it may be up to the judiciary to apply more stringent
    sanctions.”

    SCOTT HORTON: I think, as we go back and look at this past decade,
    one of the things that marks it is exactly what the Wall Street Journal is
    talking about here. It was a decade of gross prosecutorial abuse. We saw
    lawyers at the US Department of Justice issue opinions attempting to justify
    torture and mistreatment of prisoners. That was adopted as a legal mantra
    of the department. We saw hundreds of politically motivated prosecutions
    being brought, one of which is already withdrawn. That was the prosecution
    of Senator Stevens of Alaska. But we have the Siegelman case, the Paul
    Minor case, many others, where notwithstanding now overwhelming
    evidence of misconduct by prosecutors, the Justice Department standing its
    ground. We have the Broadcom case only a few weeks ago, in which a judge
    out in California also found that there was gross prosecutorial abuse. And
    now this case.

    It’s really quite a mountain of evidence now pointing to serious misconduct
    by Justice Department prosecutors. And there’s very little evidence—
    although most of this occurred on the watch of the Bush administration,
    there’s very, very little evidence that Eric Holder has realized the gravity or
    severity of the situation or taken any appropriate measures to deal with it.


    AMY GOODMAN: What about the US continuing to work with
    Blackwater, now called Xe, X-e? You have just this latest news of two
    government—Blackwater operatives reportedly killed last week at the CIA
    base in Afghanistan.

    SCOTT HORTON: Well, that’s right. In fact, I would note that one of
    the statements the Iraqi government made in response to this was that
    even though Blackwater was no longer formally a contractor in Iraq, they
    found that many of the Blackwater employees had simply recontracted with
    the new contractors there, so they were still in place. And the Iraqi
    government said that’s completely unacceptable.

    Well, the problem is that the US has not changed its pattern of heavy
    reliance on private security contractors. If anything, we’re actually seeing
    that reliance increase in connection with the operations in Afghanistan. And
    in fact, there are only a handful of qualified and authorized service
    providers. So Blackwater, almost by definition, is going to continue to hold a
    large part of these contracts as they’re awarded, not with—this is
    notwithstanding promises that were made by Hillary Clinton, when she was
    running for president, to terminate the Blackwater contracts. I mean, now
    she is Secretary of State, and Blackwater is still the principal security
    contractor to the State Department.

    AMY GOODMAN: In this issue, you’ve written about “graymailing”?

    SCOTT HORTON: That’s exactly right. There’s obviously a far-reaching
    criminal investigation going on into Blackwater right now, two grand juries
    that have been impaneled. And we saw this recent interview of Erik Prince’s
    with Vanity Fair in which he’s suggesting that he will spill the beans on all
    sorts of delicate state secrets involving the CIA and JSOC, which is the
    Special Operations Command of the military, if criminal cases are brought
    against him and his company. So this is a classic case of graymailing, which
    I think points to the foolishness at the outset of entrusting to a private
    company some of the most secret and most confidential matters of the
    nation’s intelligence community.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Scott Horton,
    for being with us. Welcome to our new studios. It’s great to have you here.
    Scott Horton, New York attorney specializing in international law and human
    rights, also a legal affairs contributor to Harper’s Magazine, where he writes
    the blog “No Comment."
     
  2. LindaChavis

    LindaChavis Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Whew

    crazy
     
  3. RAPTOR

    RAPTOR Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Makes one wonder...Who really are the gangsters?
     
  4. LindaChavis

    LindaChavis Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I agree

    But we knew this would happen
     
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