The LA Times says that Blackwater, the U.S. security contractor, may soon be facing down a war crimes inquiry.
The United Nations today called on the United States to hold private security contractors in Iraq accountable in instances when killings appeared unjustified.
The recommendation, in a quarterly report assessing the state of human rights in Iraq, comes on the heels of a series of shootings in which largely Western security details have shot and killed Iraqi citizens. The killings have increased resentment toward the guards because they often operate in a legal limbo in which they are not accountable to the laws of a country.
And the Independent says:
Ivana Vuco, the most senior UN human rights officer in Iraq, spoke yesterday about the shootings by private security guards, which have provoked outrage among Iraqis. “For us, it’s a human rights issue,” she said. “We will monitor the allegations of killings by security contractors and look into whether or not crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed.”
An Iraqi who was wounded in the 16 September shooting, and the relatives of three people killed in the attack, filed a court case in Washington yesterday accusing Blackwater of violating American law by committing “extrajudicial killings and war crimes.”
All of which brings up an interesting question: Will the U.S. government assist Blackwater and/or its employees in facing charges brought against them as a result of fighting for the U.S. in Iraq?
Discussion of Blackwater employees’ recent killing of over a dozen Iraqis in the streets of Baghdad centered around mercenaries and their value – and threat – to their employers. Turns out that may not have been the most interesting thread to discuss.
Vuvo went on in an apparent effort to blame the independent security firms for the violence in Iraq:
Ms Vuco said human rights laws applied equally to contractors and other parties in a conflict. “We will be stressing that in our communications with US authorities. This includes the responsibility to investigate, supervise and prosecute those accused of wrongdoing,” she said at the launch in Baghdad of the latest UN human rights report, covering the period from April to June. It described the human rights situation in Iraq as “very grim”.
Strangely, Ivana didn’t attempt to address the question of who is responsible for the overwhelming majority of killings in Iraq – the Iraqis themselves and the agents of foreign powers such as Iran. I doubt that the U.N. will dare take on an issue of such substance.
But as the Times reports, there are Iraqis who understand the exact nature of what is wrong with their country. Speaking of today’s bombing in Kirkuk, which killed 7 people, one resident nailed it:
“How far will the criminals go, putting all of us in the hospital while people are heading toward the mosques for the Eid prayers?” said Rizkar Khourshid, 56, whose wife and three children were injured in the explosion and taken to a hospital. “When will the explosions end? What kind of Islam is Al Qaeda claiming?”