Thursday, October 04, 2007


U.S. contractors in Iraq may be liable under U.S. law

(Gulf News) - The House of Representatives is expected to vote on legislation that could see US government contractors who commit felonies in Iraq and Afghanistan being prosecuted in US federal courts, a human rights activist said yesterday. "It's time to close the legal loopholes that allow contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan to commit crimes with impunity," Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch told Gulf News.
Under regulations originally imposed by the US government an estimated 180,000 private contractors working in Iraq are immune from local criminal prosecution. A US-Afghanistan agreement means thousands more have immunity in Afghanistan.
The legislation, if passed, will extend the reach of a federal law, called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), to cover all US contractors overseas. Currently, only Department of Defence (DOD) contractors and other contractors supporting US forces are explicitly covered by the law.
Under Iraqi law, initially imposed by US occupation authorities in 2004, all non-Iraqi contractors are immune from prosecution in Iraqi courts. Because the Blackwater employees were contracted by the State Department - not DOD - prosecutors must first establish that they are acting in support of DOD in order to bring a case under MEJA.

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