A federal court has ordered a hearing on the deaths of four Blackwater Worldwide guards in Iraq back to private arbitration. This will shield the contractor from a public investigation into the bloody 2004 ambush. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed a petition by the families of the Blackwater guards to move the case into public courts. Blackwater contended that the men signed contracts that required disputes to be resolved by confidential arbitration. The court’s ruling will result in the dispute being settled by a three-person panel.
The court’s ruling will benefit Blackwater and other contractors. The confidential hearings will keep the public from knowing how bad Blackwater really is. Private contractors profiting in Iraq should be liable for employee injuries and deaths if these contractors are a fault. They don’t want their employees to have access to courts. Four Blackwater guards – Stephen Helvenston, Mike Teague, Jerko Zovko and Wesley Batalona – were ambushed and killed in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in March 2004. The images of their mutilated bodies hanging from a bridge sparked a massive offensive by U.S. troops in the city.
A representative for the families of the four men sued the company in January 2005, claiming Blackwater broke its contract by failing to provide proper equipment and security while the men were in hostile territory. The case was ordered into arbitration in April 2007. Lawyers for the families appealed a month later. A three-judge panel from the Court of Appeals ruled the court did not have jurisdiction over the appeal of the case. Unless the families appeal, the confidential arbitration panel will keep the case. When it comes to access to the courts by a victim of wrongdoing this is a very sad ending to this matter.
Source: The Virginian-Pilot
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