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Blackwater Employees' Immunity Will Not Affect Civil Case

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Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614.6449, jnessel@ccr-ny.org
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 is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.