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3 Jan, 2010 21:42

Iraq outraged by Blackwater case dismissal

Iraq has criticized the US court’s dismissal of all charges against five Blackwater security guards accused of killing seventeen Iraqi civilians in 2007. The country’s government has vowed to pursue the case itself.

Blackwater contractors – a US private military company – was sent to Iraq to assist the US army in 2003. In 2007, 17 Iraqi civilians were killed in Al-Nusur square in western Baghdad – allegedly gunned down in an unprovoked shooting by Blackwater security Guards.

Following the killings, the firm's license to operate in the country was revoked. However, on Wednesday the men on trial for the killings had all charges dismissed by a US federal court judge.

The verdict has outraged many Iraqis.

The court made an unjust ruling,” said Nashyat Jaafar, an Iraqi citizen. “Our authorities should demand condemnation of this company. Iraqi blood has a high price.”

The Iraqi government has already assured the public that there would be further proceedings against Blackwater, currently known as Xe. Officials hope the proceedings will see the firm expelled from the country for good.

Iraq needs its own legal procedure. If the Americans are against it, the Iraqi government should still insist on its own legal proceedings. If it fails, the government should resign,” said Salah As-Saidi, another Iraqi.

Still, for many Iraqis bringing the firm to justice is only half the battle. Many say that those personally responsible for the shootings need to be punished.

Can you imagine that such a ruling would be possible if an Iraqi killed an American?” asked Ruwaida Salim, an Iraqi media worker. “An Iraqi would be sentenced to death immediately! We want justice in this case.”

Raed Jarrar, a political consultant for Peace Action – a US-based grassroots group, has explained why Iraqis feel so strongly about the Blackwater case.

Iraqis, in general, accuse foreign mercenaries like Blackwater of killing thousands of Iraqis. And they see this as a symbolic case that represents all of the Iraqis who were killed by foreign mercenaries. So to see the judge throwing out the case really outraged people,” said Jarrar.

Jarrar also believes that the Blackwater case will result in much tension in US-Iraq relations. This is why, Jarrar insists, the case is more political than legal and needs to be handled accordingly.