In the US, ex-Blackwater guard involved in the killing of civilians in Iraq, sentenced to life
A US federal court sentenced on Wednesday to life imprisonment a former employee of one of the world's largest private military companies (PMCs) Blackwater for the murder of civilians in Baghdad in 2007. This was reported by The New York Times.
According to her, the judge of the metropolitan district of Columbia, Royce Lambert, agreed with the opinion of the jury, which in December 2018 convicted defendant Nicholas Slatten. "The court fully agrees that he is guilty. As I understand it, many witnesses believe in his innocence, but they did not fully observe the trial," Lambert explained.
However, he called the “strong (in terms of impact) and important” testimony of Slatten’s relatives and friends asking the court to show leniency and to take into account the difficulty of serving in Iraq, where terrorists using guerrilla tactics were difficult to spot in the crowd of civilians.
However, Judge Lambert rejected these arguments, referring to his combat experience during the Vietnam War. According to him, participants in hostilities must abide by certain rules in order to minimize the suffering of civilians. In this case, the Blackwater guards had no reason to open fire first.
The former PMC employee himself refused to admit guilt in exchange for commutation of punishment, reports TASS. “I didn’t shoot the driver of the white car and am the victim of these prosecutors,” he said, referring to those present in the courtroom. “If they condemned me for what I did not do, then they can do it with you.”
U.S. courts have tried three times the case of Nicholas Slattan, who at the time of the crime was 23 years old. In 2014, he was convicted. This verdict was later quashed by the court of appeal. The second trial last year ended in nothing, since the panel of judges could not reach a unanimous conclusion.
It follows from the case file that in September 2007, Blackwater contract soldiers escorted a convoy of the US Embassy in Baghdad. In Nisur Square, they suspected that they were preparing an attack. As a result, the guards opened fire on unarmed Iraqis. The shooting killed 17 civilians, including two children and 10 women, and another 20 were injured.
The first fire on civilians was opened by Slatten. According to the prosecutor's office, a PMC employee deliberately killed the 19-year-old driver of a white Kia brand car, Ahmed al Rubia, by shooting between his eyes. At the same time, Slatten "was guided by hatred, prejudice and a perverted sense of revenge." The fire opened by the guard served as a signal for his colleagues.
In the United States, the Nisur Square massacre trial lasted several years — Blackwater security guards and executives claimed to have acted in accordance with instructions and for self-defense.
In April 2015, four employees of the company received 30 years in prison.