This past Wednesday, October 22, 2014, four former Blackwater contractors were convicted in the infamous 2o007 killings in Baghdad, by a federal jury.
In 2007, at the height of the United States incursion in Iraq, seventeen Iraqi civilians were killed and eighteen wounded in a busy traffic circle in Bagdhad. Employees of Blackwater Corp, a private security company, did the killings and non-fatal shootings. Blackwater was then, and remains today, a military contractor providing services to United States Armed Forces.
The widely reported case brought into focus the fact that the U.S. was using private companies to provide security forces and military services in conjunction with members of the United States military. The allegations then were, and the convictions confirm, that the killings in Nusoor Square were in violation of the rules of engagement and the rules of war.
The attorneys for the convicted contractors have told both the Court and the press that the convictions will be appealed. The case was brought by the United States Justice Department and in the charging documents the Justice Department alleged that the privateers committed murder, manslaughter, and several firearms offenses.
The facts as alleged in the criminal complaint were as follows: On September 16, 2007 nineteen Blackwater employees (called “contractors”) were providing security services to a convoy. The contractors were informed that a car bomb was detonated in Baghdad in a location that was near or part of the team’s assignment. They were escorting and protecting some United States officials. The team, disregarding orders from a senior Blackwater employee (who was in effect in command of the operation) changed the route to the Green Zone. They established a blockade obstructing traffic in busy Nusoor Square, which is next to the U.S. Green Zone. Seven members of the security team from Blackwater fired at vehicles and civilians in the traffic circle. They killed and injured unarmed Iraqi civilians. Among those killed was a medical doctor, a car salesman, an Iraqi soldier, a taxi driver and others who were there in the traffic circle. Blackwater said the convoy was under attack. At the trial witnesses told the jury that was untrue and that the contractors fired first and without provocation.
The case was dismissed in 2008 when a judge found that the government prosecutors withheld evidence that would have exonerated the defendants and ordered a new trial. The Congress of the United States held hearings on the allegations and the hearings were widely covered by the press in the United States and around the world. At the trial, there was evidence that the convoy came under attack and testimony that the contractors and testimony that the Blackwater contractors fired first and without provocation.
Here are the names of the defendants and the charges and convictions:
– Paul Slough, 35, of Keller, Texas: Convicted of thirteen counts of voluntary manslaughter, and 17 counts of attempted manslaughter and one firearms offense.
-Evan Liberty, 32, of Rochester, New Hampshire: eight counts of voluntary manslaughter, 12 counts of attempted manslaughter and one firearms offense.
-Dustin Heard, 33, of Maryville, Tennessee: six counts of voluntary manslaughter, 11 counts of attempted manslaughter and one firearms offense.
-Nicholas Slatten, 30, of Sparta, Tennessee: guilty of first-degree murder.