Blackwater Guards May Be Unlawful Combatants

October 16, 2007 at 3:16 pm | Posted in blackwater, Bush Administration, Iraq, Terrorism | 1 Comment

Bush administration lawyers are actually considering if Blackwater security guards may not actually end up being unlawful combatants. Steve Benen quotes from this LA Times report which has some very interesting nuggets:

For a guard who is only allowed to use defensive force, killing civilians violates the law of war, said Michael N. Schmitt, a professor of international law at the Naval War College and a former Air Force lawyer. “It is a war crime to kill civilians unlawfully in an armed conflict,” he said.

If the contractors were the aggressors in an incident, they could be deemed to be unlawfully using offensive force, said Scott Silliman, a retired Air Force lawyer and now a professor at Duke University. He said they could claim self-defense only if they had been fired on.

“The only force they can use is defensive force,” Silliman said. “But we may be seeing some instances where contractors are using offensive force, which in my judgment would be unlawful.”

And

“We are going to be hard-pressed to draw a distinction between the guys in Blackwater carrying automatic weapons and the bad guys setting bombs along the side of the road,” said Hutson, now dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.

U.S. officials have described many of the suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliates it holds at Guantanamo Bay as unlawful combatants either for taking part in hostilities against the United States or by supporting the hostilities while not part of a nation’s military.

By that standard, some of the private guards in Iraq and Afghanistan also could be seen as unlawful combatants, particularly if they have taken offensive action against unarmed civilians, experts said.

“If we hire people and direct them to perform activities that are direct participation in hostilities, then at least by the Guantanamo standard, that is a war crime,” Schmitt said.

The 2004 immunity measure prevents Iraq from prosecuting private guards under Iraqi law. But some international law experts think Iraq could use international treaties to try contractors for killing civilians.

Let’s see,

Extra-national non-military guys with guns? Check.
Killing civilians? Check.
No state-sponsored uniform? Check.

Shouldn’t Blackwater guards be in the same cells as all those guys languishing in Guantanamo Bay Camp X-Ray?

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1 Comment »

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  1. Shouldn’t Blackwater guards be in the same cells as all those guys languishing in Guantanamo Bay Camp X-Ray?

    Check.


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