US Fails to Prosecute Contractors
- Report: US Fails at Enforcing Prosecution of Contractors
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
"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
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.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Need some good karma? Appreciate the service?
Please consider donating to WVNS today.
Email ummyakoub@... for instructions.
To leave this list, send an email to: