Posted by: Tony Carson | 20 September, 2007

Blackwater operates from its own rules

Private security in Iraq: whose rules? Some extracts from The Christian Science Monitor article:

Iraqis have long bristled at the presence of the private guards, who they claim are little more than mercenaries with little respect for Iraqi lives and less discipline than uniformed US troops.

A 2004 regulation, promulgated by the US occupation officials who then ran Iraq, granted US private security contractors full immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.

Technically, they could be prosecuted in US courts for misdeeds in Iraq under certain circumstances, according to a July Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on the subject.

However, their prosecution in US military courts could be subject to constitutional challenge, notes CRS. And there are practical limits – such as the difficulty of collecting evidence – on the ability of US civilian courts to handle such cases.

“It is possible that some contractors may remain outside the jurisdiction of US courts, civil or military, for improper conduct in Iraq,” concludes CRS.

This legal gray area stems in part from the fact that the Iraq conflict represents the first time the US has depended on private contractors to provide widespread security services in a hostile environment.

There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 such guards-for-hire in Iraq – a small fraction of the 182,000 civilian contractors employed by the US for everything from food service jobs to trash collection.

That the contractors are not subject to Iraqi control may well be an untenable situation, note experts. But it would be difficult to ban all of them outright, considering their importance to the US.

“Nobody is going to be able to throw the contractors out of there,” says David Isenberg of the British-American Security Information Council. “They’re the American Express card of the American military. The military doesn’t leave home without them, because it can’t.”


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