Contractors accompanying U.S. military forces in Iraq or elsewhere who commit crimes may be beyond the reach of law enforcement, a recent Army publication warns (pdf), because the Defense Department has not yet updated its regulations to conform to a Congressional mandate, resulting in a “gap” in legal jurisdiction.
“In November 2006, Congress expanded UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] authority over contractor personnel authorized to accompany the force. However, as of February 2007, DOD has provided no implementation guidance for this change in law.”
See “Contractors Accompanying the Force – Training Support Package” (pdf), 12 March 2007 (at page 31).
As of mid-March, there was still no such implementation guidance.
“The liability and accountability of contractor personnel in most cases is already provided for in U.S. law, international agreements, conventions, treaties, and Status of Forces Agreements,” another Army document explains (pdf, at page 26).
“However, in some cases a gap may emerge where the contractor personnel are not subject to the UCMJ (only in time of declared war) and the contractor commits an offense in an area that is not subject to the jurisdiction of an allied government (for example, an offense committed in enemy territory).”
“In such cases, the contractor’s crime may go unpunished unless other federal laws, such as the military extraterritorial jurisdiction act (MEJA) or the war crimes act (WCA) apply, or the contractor is otherwise subject to the UCMJ (for example, a military retiree).”