Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614.6449, [email protected]
David Lerner, Riptide Communications, for CCR, (212) 260-5000
Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, for Burke O’Neil LLC and Akeel & Valentine, P.C., (281) 703-6000 or (281) 362-1411
October 31, 2007, New York, NY – The Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel issued a statement today in response to the news that the State Department had promised the employees of private military contractor Blackwater USA immunity in relation to the killing of innocent Iraqi bystanders in Nisoor Square in Baghdad on September 16:
“This immunity, what ever it turns out to mean, cannot stop the civil case we have filed against Blackwater. The State Department cannot immunize Blackwater and its employees from the damage action brought on behalf of the victims of the September 16 Nisoor Square shooting. The State Department’s action demonstrates the importance of civil damages cases like ours for seeking justice when the government is protecting corporate interests at the expense of human life. Blackwater cannot be allowed to continue operating extra-legally, providing mercenaries who flout all kinds of law. We cannot bring back those killed at Nisoor Square but we can hold Blackwater accountable for its actions.”
The civil suit was filed in Washington, D.C. federal court on October 11 on behalf of an injured survivor and three families of men killed in the incident, and alleges that Blackwater should be liable for claims of assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training and supervision. The lawsuit claims that Blackwater and its affiliated companies violated U.S. law and “created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life” and seeks compensatory damages for death, physical, mental, and economic injuries, and punitive damages.
The Iraqi victims are represented by Susan L. Burke, William T. O’Neil, Elizabeth M. Burke, and Katherine R. Hawkins of Burke O’Neil LLC, of Philadelphia; Michael A. Ratner and Vincent Warren, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, of New York; and Shereef Hadi Akeel, of Akeel & Valentine, P.C., of Birmingham, Mich.
The case is Estate of Himoud Saed Atban, et al. v. Blackwater USA, et al. (C.A. No. 07-1831) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A PDF of the complaint is available at the Abtan, et al. v. Prince., et al case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.