A federal judge in Washington DC has given Erik Prince’s Blackwater mercenaries a huge New Year’s gift. Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed all charges against the five Blackwater operatives accused of gunning down 14 innocent Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September 2007. Judge Urbina’s order, issued late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve is a stunning blow for the Iraqi victims’ families and sends a clear message that US-funded mercenaries are above all systems of law—US and international.
In a memo defending his opinion, Urbina cited a similar rationale used in the dismissal of charges against Iran-Contra figure Oliver North—namely that the government violated the rights of the Blackwater men by using statements they made to investigators in the immediate aftermath of the shooting to build a case against the guards, which Urbina said qualified for “derivative use immunity.” Urbina wrote that he agreed that “the government violated [the Blackwater guards’] constitutional rights by utilizing statements they made to Department of State investigators, which were compelled under a threat of job loss.” He added that the “government is prohibited from using such compelled statements or any evidence obtained as a result of those statements” to bring indictments.
Urbina concluded: “the government has utterly failed to prove that it made no impermissible use of the defendants’ statements or that such use was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the court must dismiss the indictment against all of the defendants.”
The Nisour Square massacre was the single deadliest incident involving private US forces in Iraq. Seventeen Iraqis were killed and more than twenty wounded.