Vice President Joseph Biden said the United States would appeal the dismissal of manslaughter charges against five Blackwater guards at a meeting in Baghdad with Iraqi leaders Saturday.
The New York Times reported that Biden expressed his “personal regret” for the Blackwater shooting in 2007, in which Blackwater guards fired their guns on a crowded Baghdad traffic circle, killing 17 people, including women and children. The incident has continued to create unwanted tension between the Iraqi and American governments as the U.S. plans to withdraw thousands of combat troops from Iraq by the end of August.
“A dismissal is not an acquittal,” said Biden after a full day of meetings with Iraqi leaders to discuss the nation’s election crisis.
“The United States is determined to hold to account anyone who commits crimes against Iraqi people,” the vice president added.
“While we fully respect the independence and the integrity of the U.S. judicial system, we were disappointed with the judge’s decision to dismiss the indictment, which was based on the way some evidence had been acquired.”
Judge Ricardo Urbina of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia threw out manslaughter and gun charges against five former guards late last month, finding that prosecutors used immunized statements to build their case. The dismissal sparked widespread anger in Iraq.
The defendants had accused prosecutors of holding back evidence from a grand jury, misrepresenting their case to the court and making public comments about the case that prejudiced the guards.
While Urbina agreed that prosecutors acted with “disregard,” he also said the misconduct was not so severe as to bar the government from investigating the men in the future, essentially leaving the door open for a new trial.
“This is great news,” Abdel-Amir Jihan, who was wounded in the Blackwater shooting, told the Times after Biden’s announcement. “The court was not fair to us. We felt great injustice when we heard the verdict. It was not right to drop the charges against them.”