Iraq government probe concludes ‘deliberate murder’ in Blackwater incident

Iraq government probe concludes ‘deliberate murder’ in Blackwater incident

[JURIST] Blackwater USA [corporate website] private security guards deliberately shot Iraqi civilians during a September shooting incident [JURIST report], a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said Sunday after the Iraqi government concluded an investigation [JURIST report] into the shooting. The investigation found no evidence that the Blackwater guards had been attacked or provoked, and raised the death toll to 17 from a previously reported number of 13. The Iraqi government called for the Blackwater personnel involved in the shooting to be prosecuted in Iraqi courts, but deferred legal action until the US completes an FBI investigation into the incident [JURIST report].

In response to domestic outrage, the Iraqi Interior Ministry proposed draft legislation [JURIST report] last month to place private security contractors under Iraqi legal jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill to effectively end the "de facto immunity" [JURIST reports] enjoyed by many private contractors working for the US in Iraq and expand US court jurisdiction to all US civilian contractors working in combat zones. US contractors are currently not subject to prosecution in Iraqi courts due to an exemption [PDF text] granted in the days of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

On September 16, Blackwater guards allegedly fired on civilians, prompting the Iraqi government to withdraw Blackwater's operating licences [JURIST report]. Blackwater maintains that the shootings were provoked [JURIST report], and has made long-term plans to stay in Iraq, despite its order to leave. Last week, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice directed that all Blackwater vehicles be fitted with security cameras [JURIST report] and that all convoys have at least one federal agent present while escorting diplomats in response to the growing concerns over the conduct of Blackwater guards. The New York Times has more. BBC News has additional coverage.