WASHINGTON: The US State Department offered assurances Tuesday that it had strengthened the rules governing private security firms in the wake of a 2007 shooting in Iraq in which 14 people died.
A former Blackwater guard was sentenced to life in prison and three others received 30-year sentences Monday for their roles in the mass shooting in which 17 people were also injured.
The four ex-employees of the US private security firm had been convicted on an array of charges ranging from first degree murder to voluntary manslaughter stemming from the incident in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
“We respect the court’s decision in this case and have no comment regarding the findings of the decisions here,” acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
But she added that after “the tragedy there, the department took a number of steps to strengthen oversight of private security contractors such as moving quickly to improve investigative policies and strengthening procedures for use of force.”
The aim had been to put in place a “more robust oversight” as well as making sure “we had better rules and regulations for private security contractors.”
But she stressed that the State Department, which has its own diplomatic security bureau, would still need to work with private contractors in some places “for a variety of reasons.”
The killings in Baghdad on September 16, 2007 deepened Iraqi resentment of America’s involvement in the country.
In final statements, all four defendants protested their innocence and asked for leniency.