Dear Chairman Leahy,
On behalf of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (“ICAR”), a coalition of human rights groups including Amnesty International, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First and EarthRights International, we offer our strong support for reintroduction of the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (“CEJA”) in this Congressional session. We also urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the need for legislation at an early date.
At the outset, we recognize and commend your leadership in introducing CEJA in the previous session of Congress, and believe that the time is now ripe for passing such an important piece of legislation.
The United States increasingly relies on private contractors to perform a range of services – from serving food to providing armed security – in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. In Iraq and Afghanistan, private military and security contractors about equal the number of U.S. troops there, and at times have outnumbered them. Recently, the Commission on Wartime Contracting, in their Second Interim Report to Congress, called on Congress to clarify U.S. jurisdiction over civilian contractors.
Although the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (“MEJA”) is applicable to contractors, it applies to contractors and their employees employed by the Department of Defense or from other agencies so long as their employment is related to “supporting the mission of the Department of Defense.” However, for contractors supporting peace-building operations -- which will be the vast majority of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan going forward -- there exists a serious U.S. jurisdictional gap.
CEJA would close this gap, clarifying and expanding criminal jurisdiction over U.S. contractors fielded abroad for serious crimes committed while employed by any department or agency other than the Armed Forces. CEJA would also provide the Justice Department with the manpower and financial resources to increase oversight and accountability by establishing and funding units to investigate allegations of criminal offenses committed by contractors as well as incidents of contractors unlawfully discharging weapons or seriously injuring a person when deployed abroad.
We therefore encourage you to both reintroduce CEJA and to organize and, in your capacity as Chairman, to hold hearings on this issue before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We commit to working actively with your offices towards these ends, and thank you again for your commitment to this important issue.
Coordinator, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable
On behalf of:
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights First