Iraq mercenary killings prompt calls for homicide charge

By staff writers
September 18, 2007

US private military company Blackwater should face corporate homicide charges for the killings at the weekend of eight Iraqis by its personnel, according to campaigns group War on Want.

Seven civilians and one Iraqi police officer died when Blackwater mercenaries opened fire at random following a mortar attack on the convoy it was guarding, say reports from Iraq.

Blackwater has been one of the most high profile and controversial of the many private military companies operating outside the law in Iraq, according to War on Want, attracting widespread condemnation for its combat engagement with Iraqi militia forces.

The company met with strong criticism in May this year for killing an Iraqi driver in a firefight near the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, an incident which led to a standoff between Blackwater forces and the Iraqi military. Video footage of Blackwater mercenaries engaged in combat in Najaf has also been posted across the internet.

The reaction comes alongside news that UK private military company Aegis Defence Services has won the largest ever contract from the US military to provide security services in Iraq, in a deal worth US$475 million over the next two years.

Aegis has attracted concern for chief executive Lt Col Tim Spicer’s past as head of private military company Sandline International, which broke the UN arms embargo on Sierra Leone in 1998 and saw Spicer jailed for mercenary activities in Papua New Guinea. Yet the US Army has favoured the company for a second time, following its earlier US$293 million contract from 2004.

Ruth Tanner, Senior Campaigns Officer at War on Want, said: “These horrific killings are a reminder of the havoc which private military and security companies have wreaked in Iraq over the past four years. There have been hundreds of human rights violations by mercenary troops, yet not a single prosecution has been brought against them. These new killings provide the strongest argument for legislation to ban the use of mercenary soldiers in conflicts such as Iraq.”

War on Want has led the campaign for UK legislation to regulate private military companies operating overseas, including a ban on their use in combat. The government has refused to introduce any form of regulation, despite recognising the problem in its 2002 Green Paper on the industry. As both US and UK governments look to withdraw their troops from Iraq, fears have resurfaced of increased mercenary activity to take on the role of regular forces.

War on Want’s report on the private military and security industry, Corporate Mercenaries, can be downloaded from http://www.waronwant.org/pmsc - along with video footage of Blackwater personnel fighting in Iraq.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.