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Army: Overseas contractors immune to laws

  |   April 9, 2007 at 8:17 AM
WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- Gaps in jurisdiction may leave some overseas military contractors beyond the reach of the law, a recent report from the U.S. Army found.

In November 2006, Congress expanded the Uniform Code of Military Justice to include private contractors under its jurisdiction. However, the Army found that "as of February 2007, DOD has provided no implementation guidance for this change in law."

Steven Aftergood, author of Secrecy News, a publication by the Federal Association of Scientists, said Friday that the new standards mandated by Congress had not been implemented as of mid-March. Aftergood said that he was not aware of any steps since then to implement the changes.

A private contractor working overseas is only under the authority of the UCMJ when war has been declared. Therefore, the situation may arise where the contractor is not accountable under the UCMJ because the conflict is not an officially declared war. The contractor also may not be legally accountable if he is working in a territory that is not under the jurisdiction of an allied country.

According to an Army manual entitled, "Contractors Accompanying the Force," this gap in jurisdiction could result in contractors not being rightfully prosecuted if they commit crimes.

"In such cases, the contractor's crime may go unpunished unless other federal laws, such as the military extraterritorial jurisdiction act or the war crimes act apply, or the contractor is otherwise subject to the UCMJ (for example, a military retiree)," the Army manual states, as cited by Aftergood.

A Pentagon spokesman indicated Friday that the gap in jurisdiction governing private contractors remains a concern.

© 2007 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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