Nisur Square Shooting in Baghdad, Iraq.
On September 16, 2007, employees of private military contractor Blackwater USA opened fire on Iraqi citizens traveling through a motor vehicle intersection known as Nisur or Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Iraq. The shootings injured or killed dozens of Iraqis. One of the Iraqis killed was a nine-year old boy, Mohammed Ali Kinani, who was shot in the head. The United States Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the shootings shortly after they occurred. The Army and FBI concluded the shootings were unprovoked and occurred outside the applicable rules of engagement. The United States government later obtained an indictment, in the United States, accusing five of the Blackwater shooters of murder and related crimes. On October 22, 2014, a federal jury returned criminal verdicts against four of the shooters for murder and voluntary manslaughter, while the fifth shooter pled guilty to manslaughter.
As the criminal prosecution unfolded, families of the Iraqis killed in the shootings, and those gravely wounded, asked Blackwater to compensate them for their losses. When Blackwater refused, many of the Nisur Square victims looked for civil counsel in the United States. At the time, Blackwater was headquartered in Moyock, North Carolina. A group of six Nisur Square victims, including the father of Mohammed Ali Kinani, retained Lewis & Roberts to represent their interests in the United States. On behalf of the Nisur Square victims, Lewis & Roberts filed a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit in North Carolina against Blackwater and the individual shooters. The filed Complaint (the lawsuit) can be read here.
The Lewis & Roberts team representing the Nisur Square victims was lead by Jim Roberts from Raleigh.
Blackwater’s efforts to curtail the Nisur Square victims' North Carolina lawsuit were not successful. After several court hearings, Blackwater agreed to settle the lawsuit with the Nisur Square victims. Transcripts of those hearings can be read here for the April 9, 2010, December 16, 2010, and February 16, 2011 court dates. When the settlement was announced, Blackwater and the Nisur Square victims issued a joint statement in a press release, which stated:
"NISUR SQUARE FAMILIES CONCLUDE BLACKWATER CASE.
CHARLOTTE/RALEIGH, North Carolina (January 6, 2012) Six Iraqi families, with family members who suffered losses on September 16, 2007 in Nisur Square, Baghdad, Iraq, have concluded their lawsuit against Blackwater/Xe Services and its affiliates and successors. The case was originally filed on September 15, 2007, in the North Carolina Superior Court of Wake County, and was pending there until this week. The Nisur Square plaintiffs have been represented by attorneys from the Raleigh office of Lewis & Roberts, PLLC.
Lewis & Roberts represents the following individuals (either directly or through their families and estates):
- Ali Kinani, age 9 at time of death,
- Abrahem Abed Al Mafraje, age 77 at time of death,
- Mahde Sahab Naser Shamake, age 25 at time of death,
- Ghassan Abad Alkarem Mahmood, age 53 at time of injury (now deceased),
- Majid Salman Abed Al-Kareem, age 50 at time of injury, and
- Nasear Hamza Latif Rahief, age 65 at time of injury.
The parties plaintiff and defendant have agreed to issue this statement about the matters: “We are pleased with the settlement, which, with respect to Xe Services, enables its new management to move the company forward; and with respect to the Iraqi families and individuals who were plaintiffs in this Lawsuit, provides them with compensation so they can now bring some closure to the losses they suffered on and after September 16, 2007 in Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq.”
The case was litigated in three different courts over the last twenty-seven months: the Wake County Superior Court; the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina; and the United States Court of Appeals (Fourth Circuit). The case was vigorously litigated by the parties, spanning thousands of pages of court filings and multiple hearings in the state and federal courts.
The case is a testament to the fairness of the United States justice system, where all who come before it are treated with dignity and without favor.
The terms of the settlement were confidential.
Case Summary and Media Coverage
Some important aspects of the case are not confidential. For instance, Ali Kinani's father, Mohammed Kinani, and several Lewis & Roberts attorneys were interviewed by national journalist Jeremy Scahill for an article published in The Nation and subject of a 25 minute documentary film entitled Blackwater's Youngest Victim. Mohammed Kinani was also the lead witness for the United States in its prosecution of four Blackwater contractors for the killings in Nisur Square. Another of our clients, Majid Salman Abed Al-Kareem, also testified at the criminal trial. Those contractors were found guilty of various murder and weapons charges.
The Complaint filed against Blackwater in the case was notable because it asserted causes of action under North Carolina and Iraqi law. The Blackwater case also received substantial press coverage; several such articles can be read by clicking on the titles below:
- Charlotte Observer: U.S. Had Warned Blackwater
- Charlotte Observer: Blackwater Settles Nisoor Square Lawsuit
- Charlotte Observer: Ex-Blackwater Firm Seeks to Stop Lawsuit
- Charlotte Observer: Blackwater: Don't Blame Us in Deaths
- The Nation: Blackwater's Youngest Victim
- Charlotte Observer: Father Pins Hopes on Last Blackwater Lawsuit
- North Carolina Lawyers Weekly: Iraqi Plaintiffs in Blackwater Case May Get Trial in Wake County
- North Carolina Lawyers Weekly: Federal Judge Remands Blackwater Case to Wake County
- North Carolina Lawyers Weekly: Wake County Judge Hears Motions in Remanded Blackwater Case
- Charlotte Observer: Judge Orders Blackwater Suit Can Proceed. 5 Guards from the N.C. Based Company Now Called Xe Were Blamed in 14 Civilian Deaths in Baghdad in 2007
- New York Times: Iraqis Accuse Blackwater of Killings
- Wall Street Journal: Jury Finds Blackwater Guards Guilty of Iraqi Shootings
Needless to say, Lewis & Roberts is proud of its representation of the Nisur Square victims. The case presented difficult and unsettled questions of national security and international law. The case also underscored the importance of the United States justice system and its emphasis on fairness and the equality of treatment to those who come before it.
Although the Blackwater litigation was unique, it demonstrates Lewis & Roberts' capacity to litigate complicated cases against powerful defendants with immense resources at their disposal. At the time Lewis & Roberts accepted the Nisur Square victims’ case, there were public questions about whether the Iraqi victims could successfully litigate their case in a United States court. While the case was hotly contested, when the case settled after numerous hearings in state and federal courts, such questions were put to rest.
Jim Roberts was the lead counsel for the plaintiffs.