[JURIST] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic] said Monday that Iraq will file lawsuits in both US and Iraqi courts against Blackwater [JURIST news archive] after a US judge dismissed charges last week against five guards indicted for their involvement in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST reports] in September 2007. Judge Richardo Urbina of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed [opinion, PDF] voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges against the five guards, finding that statements were obtained in violation of the Constitution. Al-Maliki said that his government rejects the ruling [Al Jazeera report] and has formed a committee to file suits in both the US and Iraq.
Prosecutors from the US Department of Justice [official website] dropped manslaughter charges [JURIST report] against one of the defendants in November. Five defendants pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to manslaughter and weapons charges last January. The five guards were indicted [JURIST report] in December 2008 on charges of voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, which carries a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence. A sixth guard pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the same incident. 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]. Iraq security contractors lost their immunity from prosecution under the new US Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq that was approved [JURIST reports] in December 2008.