Tort Law

Families of Dead Iraqis Sue Blackwater

In an unusual effort to hold a private military contractor in Iraq civilly liable for alleged wrongdoing, the families of three dead Iraq civilians and one survivor of a recent Baghdad shooting sued Blackwater USA and its affiliates in federal court in Washington, D.C., this morning.

Filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Philadelphia-based Burke O’Neill, the wrongful death suit (PDF) seeks compensation for “extrajudicial killings and war crimes,” reports Reuters. It is filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which gives foreigners a right to sue here if no avenue of redress is available in their home country for wrongs inflicted there by a U.S. person or company.

Employees of the private security contractor reportedly shot 17 Iraqi civilians to death on Sept. 16 while conducting a convoy through Baghdad, and the plaintiffs allegedly were unlawfully attacked during this incident. The suit says the firm “violated U.S. law and fostered a culture of lawlessness among its employees,” and asserts claims for wrongful death, assault and battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training and supervision, according to the Associated Press.

As discussed in previous posts, the House of Representatives is seeking to apply U.S. criminal law to military contractors in Iraq. Presently, private security guards are virtually immune under both U.S. and Iraq law. Prosecution under both U.S. criminal law and U.S. military law, for instance, would be very difficult.

(Hat tip: TPMMuckraker.)

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