[JURIST] The US military referred charges Monday against Army Capt. Carl Bjork, accused by several Iraqi detainees of ordering the killings of two Iraqi civilians in 2006. The charges against Bjork include one count of reckless endangerment and two counts of premeditated murder. The accusers are three Iraqi police officers and a former Iraqi Intel officer currently being detained in Iraq. Bjork's attorney Victor Kelly, who practices with the National Military Justice Group [organization website], has said that the case against his client is weak [9News report]. Bjork's case is set to go before a court-martial in Baghdad before March 1.
Detainee and civilian abuse has been a major issue during the occupation of Iraq. Earlier this week, a US military judge ruled [JURIST report] that the trials for two Navy SEALs [official website] accused in the alleged assault of an Iraqi prisoner will be held on a US military base in Iraq in order for the alleged victim to be questioned in court. Last week, US security firm Blackwater [JURIST news archive] reached a settlement agreement in seven federal lawsuits filed by Iraqi citizens. The suits claimed that Blackwater, now known as Xe, created a reckless culture that resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST reports] in September 2007 and the 2006 killing of an Iraqi guard. The settlement was reached after a US judge dismissed charges [JURIST report] against five guards indicted for their involvement in the 2007 killings. Last year, the US Army [official website] court-martialed soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th infantry [unit website] for their alleged roles in the 2007 killings of four Iraqi citizens [JURIST report]. The crime was an alleged retributive act for casualties suffered by the unit.