Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Extending Criminal Jurisdiction to U.S. Contractors Fielded Abroad
Washington, D.C. — Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing titled, “Holding Criminals Accountable: Extending Criminal Jurisdiction to Government Contractors and Employees Abroad” addressing the need to clarify criminal jurisdiction over U.S. contractors. Human Rights First has long called for legislation that would clarify U.S. criminal law over contractors for serious abuses committed overseas. While our U.S. troops are held to account under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for their actions and private contractors that work in support of DoD’s mission are held to account under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, there is an open question whether civilian contractors not contracted by DoD or working in support of DoD’s mission can be held to account under any jurisdictional statute. Not only are we calling for clear standards for accountability, but industry leaders, like Triple Canopy, are too. This ambiguity must be clarified before the transition from military to civilian control occurs in Iraq at the end of this year. “With the State Department reporting that it will increase its contractor force to 17,000 and double its use of private security contractors to 7,000 by the time the military exits Iraq, it is imperative that U.S. criminal jurisdiction over non-DoD contractors is fully clarified,” said HRF’s Melina Milazzo, who authored the organization’s September 2010 report on private security and other contractors, State of Affairs: Three Years After Nisoor Square. In order to address this problem, Human Rights First supports passage of the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA), legislation that was introduced in the 111th Congress and is anticipated to be reintroduced this year. The bill would clarify and expand U.S. criminal jurisdiction over U.S. contractors fielded abroad. Congress and the President should work together to immediately address this by re-introducing and passing the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA) in order to protect U.S. interests and the contractors tasked with advancing them. “The United States has both a responsibility and a national security interest to ensure that contractors who perform military and security services in its name will be held accountable for serious abuses – just as it does for our men and women in uniform,” added Milazzo. For more information on contractor accountability and oversight, read Melina Milazzo’s latest blog.