[JURIST] US Vice President Joe Biden [official profile] announced [YouTube video] Saturday that the US will appeal a ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] dismissing voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges against five Blackwater [JURIST news archive] guards who were indicted for their involvement in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] in September 2007. Biden made the announcement during a visit to Baghdad where he met with Iraqi political leaders to help deal with issues over parliamentary elections [NYT report] scheduled for March. Biden expressed personal regret over the shootings and said that while the charges were dismissed, that was not the same as the men being acquitted. Biden added:
The United States is determined to hold accountable anyone who commits crimes against the Iraqi people. While we fully respect the independence and the integrity of the US judicial system we were disappointed by the judge's decision to dismiss the indictment, which was based on the way in which some evidence had been acquired."
Biden said that the US Department of Justice will file the appeal next week.
In December, Judge Richardo Urbina of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed charges against the five Blackwater guards. Urbina cited statements of the defendants that he said were given under the threat of job loss and with the promise of immunity. Because of the unconstitutionality of the statements, Urbina determined, prosecutors had to put together a case without them. The Blackwater incident caused domestic outrage in Iraq and has prompted legal controversy in the US. A FBI inquiry into the incident concluded that the shootings were unjustified [JURIST report].