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State Department lays down more rules for private security contractors in Iraq

[JURIST] The US State Department Tuesday laid down [press release] additional rules and procedures governing the operation of US private security contractors working with its personnel in Iraq. The new rules, supplementing a series of interim measures [JURIST report] announced earlier this month, are likewise based on the recommendations of a report [PDF text] by the Secretary of State's Panel on Personal Protective Services set up after Blackwater [corporate website; JURIST news archive] company guards working for the State Department killed up to 13 civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square on September 16. Contractors will now be required to provide a certain number of Arabic-speaking employees and to provide their employees more comprehensive training. Private security guards will also be subject to stricter rules regarding the use of force. An Embassy Joint Incident Review Board will be set up to investigate incidents where deadly force is used.

Panel head Patrick Kennedy said that the rules were needed to establish a legal framework [briefing transcript] to better restrain and police private security firms; the firms have largely operated free from oversight due to legal loopholes [JURIST report]. In response to the September 16 incident, the Iraqi government said it had revoked Blackwater's operating license [WP report]. Blackwater maintains that the shootings were provoked [JURIST report], and has made long-term plans to stay in Iraq, despite the Iraqi action. Reuters has more.

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