Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pentagon Hints Contractors Can Be Tried In Military Courts

The Washington Times

Pentagon officials suggested yesterday that U.S. civilian security contractors in Iraq fall under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and could be prosecuted in military courts for offenses against Iraqis.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters that while U.S. civilians working in Iraq under Department of Defense contracts were not subject to Iraqi law, they could be held accountable under U.S. law.

Iraqi officials have complained of their inability to prosecute civilian contractors, some of whom have been accused of shooting indiscriminately into crowds and killing innocent civilians. Questions have been raised whether the contractors are subject to any law at all.

But Mr. Morrell said yesterday that the United States has the means through the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and the Uniform Code of Military Justice "to hold contractors accountable."

"We have the means to go after them through the Department of Justice and we have the means to go after them through the military courts," he said.

Gary Myers, an Austin, Texas, lawyer who has defended both contractors and U.S. military personnel — including Sgt. Evan Vela, the soldier accused in a recent sniper-baiting case — disagreed. "Attempting to impose the military justice system on civilians is foolhardy, he said. "It raises more questions than it answers, and is probably constitutionally deficient with respect to civilians."......

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