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Update: Nisour Square Plaintiffs Felt Coerced Into Settling

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on January 14, 2010 11:55 AM

As noted earlier this week in this blog, several of the civil suits filed by Iraqi citizens for the actions of Blackwater guards during the Nisour Square shooting in Baghdad in 2007, were settled. As of yesterday, the Los Angeles Times followed up with reports that the plaintiffs are unhappy with the amounts they have received and are charging they were coerced and duped into settling with the company.

The Times reports the plaintiffs say they were told that Blackwater (now known as Xe) was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy and the government would seize the company's assets, leaving them with no chance for a monetary settlement. The Iraqis say this pressure came from their own attorneys. They are now asking the Iraqi government to intervene and pressure the U.S government to nullify the settlements. However, experts agree without actual proof of fraud or coercion, any action to overturn the settlement is unlikely.

Mahdi Abdu Khodr is leading the petition for government action. He alleges that extreme tactics were used to force the plaintiffs to sign settlement papers. "We signed the papers to accept a settlement because we had psychological pressure and some of us were threatened," he said.

One plaintiff, Hassan Jabar Salman, a lawyer, is satisfied with his settlement which he says is larger than the amounts reported in the press. However he adds, that due to his profession, he was in a better position to handle the negotiations.

At this time, the Times says there are no published reports of possible bankruptcy by Blackwater. However, the settlements made are not necessarily the worst outcome for these plaintiffs. The suit itself faced many obstacles. Robert Strassfeld, director of the Institute for Global Security Law and Policy at Case Western Reserve University School of Law felt the settlement amounts were "disappointing," but added, "I was fairly pessimistic about the likelihood of ever achieving justice in this case."

There is a separate civil case still proceeding against Blackwater in North Carolina courts.

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