Posted by: Tony Carson | 16 October, 2007

Bringing Blackwater to justice — a long-shot

“There will be no compensation because the American Army did not kill your brother,” an apologetic U.S. soldier told a grieving relative. Blackwater USA did.

Here are some notes about just how difficult it will be for Iraqis to seek justice for wrongs committed by militant contractors, from an LA Times article Iraqis shot by contractors stymied in search for justice

There is no precedent for holding Western security contractors accountable in court, in Iraq or the U.S., for injuries or deaths suffered by Iraqi civilians.

Seventeen Iraqis, including Abbass, were killed Sept. 16, according to Iraqi officials, when Blackwater guards opened fire after a U.S. diplomat was escorted back to the heavily secured Green Zone. Two Iraqis were killed in an Oct. 9 incident involving another private security company.

Nobody knows how many Iraqis have died at the hands of such contractors because of the secrecy with which security firms operate here. The victims are among untold thousands of civilians who have died since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Although the recent shootings have galvanized Iraqis to demand justice, it is far from certain they will get it — either in the form of criminal prosecution or financial compensation.

“The answer may be no for both,” said Eugene R. Fidell, a military law expert who practices in Washington and teaches military justice at Yale Law School.

Robert N. Strassfeld, director of the Institute for Global Security Law and Policy at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, agreed.

“There is a solid legal basis for keeping American courthouse doors open for these claims,” Strassfeld said. “That said, any plaintiff, whether an American citizen or a foreign national, who brings such a claim will face a battery of arguments that the court lacks jurisdiction, that the claim is preempted by a variety of federal laws, and that the defendant has immunity.”

Separate from criminal prosecution, monetary damages would be difficult to win because of the challenge of proving who did what in the chaos of the moment — likely to become tougher as time passes.

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