Background on the Security Contractor Accountability Act of 2007
As the United States continues to wage the "war on terror," it has increasingly outsourced key security and military functions, particularly in Iraq and Afganistan, to private companies. U.S. government and military contractors perform a broad array of functions, from logistical support to security for U.S. government officials to interrogating and translating interrogations of detained persons. But, despite the growing use of contractors, the systems for awarding contracts and managing civilians working for those firms remain decentralized and unclear.
In this environment, serious allegations of contractor involvement in human rights violations--including the torture at Abu Ghraib and hundreds of shootings, sometimes lethal, of Iraqi civilians--have emerged, yet Bush administration officials have made virtually no effort to hold contractors accountable or compensate victims.
Amnesty has called on the U.S. government to investigate and to prosecute contractors where clear evidence of their involvement in human rights violations exists. To date, the US Justice Department has made little progress on meeting these demands.
The September 16, 2007 lethal shootings of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater employees once again emphasize the need for accountability of contractors operating in conflict zones, and Congress is responding. Representative David Price's (D-NC) MEJA Expansion and Enforcement Act of 2007 clarifies U.S. jurisdiction to prosecute contractors of all U.S. agencies operating near a conflict area, not just contractors supporting the work of the Department of Defense, establishes an FBI unit to investigate incidents of use of force by contractors and requires the Department of Justice to report on how it is handling cases of contractor crime referred to it. The bill was resoundingly passed in the House on October 4 with a 389-30 vote. Senator Barack Obama then introduced companion legislation in the Senate, the Security Contractor Accountability Act of 2007 (S. 2147). If passed in the Senate, this proposed legislation would largely answer Amnesty's call-to-action for accountability of contractors.
We need to send a clear message to the Senate that they should co-sponsor and vote in favor of S. 2147. Amnesty International urges you to contact your Senators to support this important bill in any way they can. This proposed legislation, if ultimately made into law, will help bring meaningful accountability for human rights violations committed by contractors in the U.S. "war on terror".
You can help ensure that companies hired by the U.S. government do not continue to enjoy impunity for serious human rights violations by asking your Senators to support the Security Contractor Accountability Act of 2007.