Blackwater faces war crimes inquiry after killings in Iraq
BY ANNE PENKETH , DIPLOMATIC EDITOR Friday 12 October 2007
The American firm Blackwater USA has been served notice that it faces investigations for war crimes after 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed in a hail of bullets by its security guards in Baghdad.
The killings last month put the spotlight on the private security firms whose employees are immune from prosecution, unlike professional soldiers who are subject to courts martial. In the second such incident in less than a month, involving the Australian contractor Unity Resources Group this week, two Armenian Christian women were shot dead after their car approached a protected convoy. Their car was riddled with 40 bullets.
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.”
Iraq says there are more than 180 mainly US and European security companies in the country, with estimates of the number of American contractors running at 100,000. Many Iraqis see the firms as little more than trigger-happy private armies, and the latest incidents have strained relations between Iraq and the US, which has ordered a full security review.
Iraqi authorities have accused Blackwater of the “deliberate murder” of Iraqi civilians in the shooting in a crowded city square, and are demanding millions of dollars in compensation and the removal of the company from the country within six months. The security firm says its guards returned fire at threatening targets and responded lawfully to a threat against a convoy it was guarding.
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”.
Said Arikat, the UN mission spokesman, urged the Bush administration to hold accountable those involved in indiscriminate shooting; “to apply the rules of engagement and prosecute them”. He added: “There cannot be rogue elements that are above the law. Definitely, we will be driving that point home time and again.”
In the most recent shooting, on Tuesday, a woman taxi driver, Marany Awanees, and her front-seat passenger were killed. Unity Resources Group said its guards feared a suicide attack and fired only after issuing several warnings. The guards were protecting financial and policy experts working under contract for the US Agency for International Development.
Private security firms benefit from immunity under a 2004 law promulgated by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
US private soldiers fighting in Ukraine
Soldiers from a private US security company with a record of alleged atrocities in Iraq are supporting Ukraine’s security forces in the volatile east of the country, the German newspaper Bild reported Sunday.
The report, citing Germany’s federal intelligence agency BND, said 400 of the heavily-armed men employed by the group formerly known as Blackwater were deployed in the vicinity of Lugansk where pro-Russian separatists are seeking self-rule.
The BND declined to comment on the report, while the security company — now known as Academi — dismissed similar reports in March.
Bild reported that according to a BND assessment, US intelligence services had knowledge of the covert involvement of the private soldiers in Ukraine. BND representatives relayed the information to Germany’s federal chancellory on April 29, Bild said.
Academi was known as Blackwater during its time as key security services contractor to the US government in the war it led to oust Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein in 2003.
It was later implicated in the killing of unarmed civilians and arms smuggling in Iraq.
The company, which was awarded a similar US government contract in Afghanistan, also provides security services to companies and other governments.
On May 2, Moscow accused the West of complicity in Ukraine’s military assault on separatists in Sloviansk and suggested US mercenaries were supporting the army.
(This article was published on May 11, 2014)
Atrocities Committed in Odessa and Eastern Ukraine bear the Fingerprints of US-NATO Sponsored Mercenaries and Special Forces
Kiev’s Crackdown on Federalists. Interview with Michel Chossudovsky
by Daria Chernyshova
The atrocities in Odessa and Mariupol have the fingerprints of what happened in other countries where private security contractors were involved, Director of the Center for Research on Globalization Michel Chossudovsky told RIA Novosti Monday.
“What is happening in Odessa, Slaviansk and other cities bear the fingerprints of the special forces, highly trained former military, private mercenaries,” Chossudovsky said. “They have committed such atrocities in Iraq, and in Syria.”
According to the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper, around 400 elite commandos of notorious US private security firm Academi are allegedly helping Ukrainian authorities in a punitive operation against federalists in the country’s east.
OPINION: Kiev’s Crackdown on Federalists Bears Fingerprints of Mercenaries
The newspaper said the Academi mercenaries have taken part in attacks against federalists near Slaviansk, one of the strongholds of pro-federalization supporters in Ukraine. It is unclear who hired them, the newspaper added.
“Those reports are a little bit repetitive because we know this and I think what has to be addressed now is the role of these forces in the atrocities committed in Odessa and in Mariupol,” Chossudovsky told RIA Novosti.
“I think that the Western military alliance is committed to generating further atrocities and civilian deaths, thus dividing the Ukrainian people. What is happening in Ukraine is not necessarily a pro-Russian initiative, this is a movement against the neo-Nazi government,” he added.
Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service informed the German government about the involvement of Academi commandos in Kiev’s military operations in eastern Ukraine in late April. Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, gained notoriety for murdering civilians in Iraq, as well as conducting arms smuggling and committing other crimes.
A March 17 press release on Academi’s website called the allegations of its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis “unfounded statements.”
“Some irresponsible bloggers and an online reporter have recently posted rumors that Academi employees (operating under the name of Blackwater) are present in Ukraine,” the company said. “They are not and Academi has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater.”
Commenting on Academi’s denial, Michel Chossudovsky said this was not true. “If they were not lying they wouldn’t need a press release,” he told RIA Novosti. “The fact that they deny it doesn’t mean anything. They are not going to tell the truth.”
He also noted that Ukraine’s National Guard set up in the middle of March is financed and supported by the US, with the “the Western military alliance” having a “criminal agenda in eastern Ukraine.”
“There were also training programs and in all likelihood private mercenaries involved in training programs as well as actual formation of the National Guard. That has to be assessed. We need more information on the presence of these special forces,” Chossudovsky said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned of foreign mercenaries’ active involvement in Kiev’s operations, signaling the authorities’ incapacity to maintain order in the country.
Russian Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights Konstantin Dolgov said last month information on possible foreign mercenaries participation in Ukraine’s special operation questions the role of the West in the Ukrainian crisis.