For Immediate Release: February 2, 2009
Washington, DC – Even after Blackwater leaves Iraq now that the Iraqi government has denied them an operation license, the United States government will continue to employ tens of thousands of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan with insufficient means to hold them to account. In fact, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) predicts that reliance on private security contractors in Iraq is likely to increase as US forces withdraw.
“For far too long private contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan have operated above the law,” said Devon Chaffee, Advocacy Counsel for Human Rights First. “Contractors perform a necessary and often courageous service, but holding them accountable is essential to maintaining the credibility of our efforts and our reputation as a nation that upholds the rule of law.”
President Barack Obama should continue the efforts he began in the Senate to clarify and expand U.S. extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction over contractors and he should support the work of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which is holding its first public hearing today. Moreover, the Attorney General should make prosecution of contractor crime a priority and allocate the necessary resources for pending and future investigations and prosecutions.
In November 2008, Human Rights First issued three-stage blueprint that sets forth concrete recommendations for action by then President-elect Obama beginning on day one and continuing through the first year of the next administration. The blueprint, How to End Impunity for Private Security and Other Contractors: Blueprint for the Next Administration, is the third in a series of strategy papers released by Human Rights First to guide the next administration in restoring American leadership in human rights in critical spheres. In January, Human Rights First released a comprehensive report, Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity, that laid out the broad problem of contractor impunity, analyzed the current legal framework, and set forth detailed recommendations to establish accountability.