[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday reinstated [opinion, PDF] a case against four former Blackwater [JURIST news archive] employees involved in the September 2007 shootings of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report]. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] dismissed the charges against a fifth ex-Blackwater employee. The charges against the remaining men include 14 counts of manslaughter. The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] initially dismissed the charges [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] because it found the decision to prosecute the men was “tainted” by the use of immunized statements. The appeals court found that the lower court’s determination was based upon “an erroneous view of the law” and ruled:
We thus vacate and remand the case for the court to determine, as to each defendant, what evidence—if any—the government presented against him that was tainted as to him, and, in the case of any such presentation, whether in light of the entire record the government had shown it to have been harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
A victim wounded in the shooting praised [AP report] the court of appeals’ decision.
Two ex-Blackwater contractors were convicted of manslaughter [JURIST report] in March for their role in the May 2009 shooting deaths of two Afghan nationals and the wounding of a third. Last April, a federal grand jury indicted five former Blackwater executives [JURIST report] on charges of weapons violations and lying to investigators. In February 2010, the Iraqi government ordered 250 former Blackwater employees to leave Iraq [JURIST report] in reaction to the dismissal of charges against the ex-Blackwater employees allegedly involved in the September 2007 shootings. That month, the DOJ also opened an investigation [JURIST report] into whether Blackwater bribed the Iraqi government to be permitted to continue operating in Iraq following the 2007 shootings. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts expired and were not renewed.