[JURIST] The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights [official website] filed a lawsuit against private security contractor Blackwater USA [corporate website] Thursday on behalf of an injured survivor and the families of 3 men killed during a September 16 shooting incident in Baghdad [JURIST report] that took the lives of 17 Iraqi civilians. The complaint [PDF text] submitted in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] alleges Blackwater violated US law and should be liable for assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. It seeks both monetary consequential and punitive damages, claiming the company "created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life." AFP has more.
The CCR action came the same day as a new report [PDF text] by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) saying that the US government should investigate and, if necessary, prosecute private contractors for killing Iraqis without cause [JURIST report]. UNAMI warned that employing private contractors to provide security in high-tension areas impermissibly blurs the distinction between civilians and military combatants relied upon by international war crimes laws, the same position [press release] espoused by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Blackwater has denied firing on civilians without cause [JURIST report] and maintains that its personnel were acting in self-defense.