Last January, Peter Singer called attention to a change in U.S. law that would make military contractors subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. -- But on Friday Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News noted that "because the Defense Department has not yet updated its regulations to conform to a Congressional mandate," a "gap" in legal jurisdiction still exists that may result in crimes going unpunished "unless other federal laws, such as the military extraterritorial jurisdiction act (MEJA) or the war crimes act (WCA) apply, or the contractor is otherwise subject to the UCMJ (for example, a military retiree)." -- Three months ago, Singer said that "Not one contractor of the entire military industry in Iraq has been charged with any crime over the last three and a half years, let alone prosecuted or punished. Given the raw numbers of contractors, let alone the incidents we know about, it boggles the mind." -- (Peter Singer is an authority in the field of what he calls "privatized military firms" or PMFs in his Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Cornell University Press, 2003). -- On Monday evening at 7:00 p.m., Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation Books, 2007) will be one of a group of books taken up for discussion by UFPPC's book discussion group, Digging Deeper....
ARMY SEES GAP IN JURISDICTION OVER MIL CONTRACTORS
By Steven Aftergood
April 6, 2007
Contractors accompanying U.S. military forces in Iraq or elsewhere who commit crimes may be beyond the reach of law enforcement, a recent Army publication warns, because the Defense Department has not yet updated its regulations to conform to a Congressional mandate, resulting in a "gap" in legal jurisdiction.
"In November 2006, Congress expanded UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] authority over contractor personnel authorized to accompany the force. However, as of February 2007, DOD has provided no implementation guidance for this change in law."
As of mid-March, there was still no such implementation guidance.
"The liability and accountability of contractor personnel in most cases is already provided for in U.S. law, international agreements, conventions, treaties, and Status of Forces Agreements."
"However, in some cases a gap may emerge where the contractor personnel are not subject to the UCMJ (only in time of declared war) and the contractor commits an offense in an area that is not subject to the jurisdiction of an allied government (for example, an offense committed in enemy territory)."
"In such cases, the contractor's crime may go unpunished unless other federal laws, such as the military extraterritorial jurisdiction act (MEJA) or the war crimes act (WCA) apply, or the contractor is otherwise subject to the UCMJ (for example, a military retiree)."
See "Contractors Accompanying the Force—Training Support Package," 12 March 2007:
and related explanatory material: