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US Fails to Prosecute Contractors

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    Report: US Fails at Enforcing Prosecution of Contractors Elena Schorr http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/011708N.shtml The US government has the legal authority
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2008
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      Report: US Fails at Enforcing Prosecution of Contractors
      Elena Schorr
      http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/011708N.shtml


      The US government has the legal authority to prosecute private
      contractors for crimes they commit in Iraq but often declines to use
      it, according to a report released today by a leading human rights
      group. The findings by Human Rights First come amid renewed
      uncertainty about whether employees of the US security company
      Blackwater can be prosecuted for a September shooting in Baghdad that
      left 17 Iraqis dead.

      The Bush administration has warned that inconsistency in federal
      law may allow the contractors to evade charges, the New York Times
      reported today.

      "The main obstacle to ending the culture of impunity among private
      security contractors is not shortcomings in the law but rather the
      lack of will to enforce the law," today's report states.

      A seven-year-old law called the Military extraterrestrial
      jurisdiction act, or MEJA, provides the main mechanism to prosecute
      contractors for crimes committed outside the US.

      But many in the capital have questioned whether MEJA's specific
      application to Pentagon employees would exempt Blackwater, which was
      operating under a US state department contract when the September
      shooting occurred.

      The human rights report rejects that argument, citing a
      congressional expansion of MEJA passed after the Abu Ghraib prison
      abuse scandal in 2004. That measure allows for prosecution of
      non-Pentagon employees who were "supporting the mission of the
      department of defence".

      The behaviour of contractors for Blackwater and other security
      firms has sparked resentment among Iraqi officials as well as
      civilians, many of whom consider the private guards unnecessarily violent.

      "These violent attacks have created a culture of impunity that
      angers the local population, undermines the military mission, and
      promotes more abuse by contractors over time," the report states.

      The report found that since the war in Iraq began, only one US
      contractor has been charged with a violent crime under MEJA: an
      employee of KBR, formerly owned by Halliburton, who was accused of
      stabbing an Indian female colleague.

      The House of Representatives already has approved a measure that
      would directly apply MEJA to Blackwater and its fellow contractors.
      Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has introduced an
      expansion of MEJA in the Senate, but the bill has yet to see action.

      Fallout from Blackwater's legal and public relations troubles has
      hit British security companies in recent months.

      The chief executive of ArmorGroup, the largest UK security firm
      operating in Iraq, left his post after reports of the September
      violence chilled the company's profits and new contracts.

      The human rights report singles out ArmorGroup and Aegis Defence
      Services, another UK-based contractor, for tracking incidents
      involving firearms use by their employees, in contrast with US
      companies that do not routinely keep such records.

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