Accountability, Oversight Safeguards Needed Before State Doubles Contractor Force
Washington, DC Following reports that the U.S. State Department plans to more than double the number of its private security contractors in Iraq, increasing from 2,700 contractors to 7,000, Human Rights First is urging the Obama Administration and Congress to address oversight and accountability concerns that currently exists for non-Defense contractors.
The organization notes that after the infamous Nisoor Square incident during which Blackwater private security contractors employed by the State Department shot and killed 17 unarmed civilians and wounded dozens more, former Bush Administration officials argued that there was a jurisdictional gap in U.S. law. U.S. courts, they argued, could only reach contractors employed by the Department of Defense, not by State.
Human Rights First's Melina Milazzo states, "The U.S. government has a responsibility to address unresolved accountability and oversight concerns linked to private security contractors working outside of the Department of Defense. These gaps must be filled before the State Department's planned deployment of thousands of more contractors to Iraq. It would be reckless to put them in place without enacting proper safeguards."
Human Rights First notes that the State Department's announcement underscores the need for passage of the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA). It notes that the bill, currently before both chambers of Congress, would provide the needed legal clarification, mechanisms and resources to ensure contractors fielded abroad by the U.S. are held accountable regardless of which agency employs them.
For more information about Human Rights First's work on this issue, visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/our-work/law-and-security/right-to-remedy/pmc/index.asp.