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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Iraq | International
Civilian contractors in Iraq placed under US military law
Under a new law written into the 2007 military spending bill last year, private contractors working in Iraq will now be subject to US military law. The provision, which was slipped through at the end of the last congressional session with virtually no debate, will for the first time place civilians working with the military under the jurisdiction of courts-martial and strip them of the constitutional right to a trial by a jury of their peers.
The measure was proposed by Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina) as a means of placing legal restraints on the nearly 100,000 private security contractors who have until now operated with impunity in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the new law has provoked predictable opposition from private security firms, civil liberties lawyers say the new law is written so broadly that its impact could reach much further than the mercenaries contracted by the Pentagon.
If the Defense Department chooses to pursue a case, civilian government employees, non-US citizens and even embedded journalists could now be brought before a military court. “One could imagine a situation in which a commander is unhappy with what a reporter is writing and could use the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) to pressure the reporter,” Phillip E. Carter, a lawyer who specializes in government contract cases, told the Washington Post.