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US should prosecute contractors who commit crimes in Iraq: UN

[JURIST] The US government should investigate and, if necessary, prosecute private contractors for killing Iraqis without cause, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said in a report [text] released Thursday. The UNAMI report warns the US that employing private contractors to provide security in high-tension areas impermissably blurs the distinction between civilians and military combatants relied upon by international war crimes laws, the same position [press release] espoused by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The UNAMI report is focused on the April to June quarter, during which several private contractors were accused of indiscriminately shooting at Iraqi civilians, but notes recent press coverage of the Blackwater USA contracting firm [JURIST news archive]. Blackwater private contractors are accused of deliberately shooting at Iraqi civilians during a September shooting incident [JURIST reports]. The September shootings were called "deliberate murder" by an Iraqi investigation, and prompted a US House bill to expand US jurisdiction over such contractors [JURIST reports].

In addition, the UNAMI report discusses the rule of law in Iraq, finding that detainees are not processed quickly enough, that many detainees are not represented by legal counsel for their initial investigative hearings, that many detainees are alleging torture by their captors, and that serious irregularities exist in trial procedures for those sentenced to death. Reuters has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.

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