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Private contractors in Iraq may be stripped of immunity: Iraq official

[JURIST] Private security contractors operating in Iraq will no longer receive immunity from prosecution under a US-Iraqi agreement now in negotiation, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told AFP Tuesday. Contractors have worked largely above the law due to legal loopholes because the US government exempted its employees and contractors from Iraqi law [order, PDF] when Iraq was still under US administration. Even though Iraq has since formed its own government, the exemption still applies and has been a source of tension between the US and Iraqi governments. Criticism of the exemption intensified in January after the shooting death of at least eight Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] at the hands of private security contractor Blackwater USA [corporate website]. AFP has more.

During a private meeting in December, DOJ officials reportedly told Congress that numerous legal hurdles [JURIST report] would have to be overcome before Blackwater employees could be charged with any crimes. The Blackwater allegations have caused domestic outrage in Iraq and have prompted legal controversy in the US. In November, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that an FBI investigation into the incident concluded that the shootings were unjustified {JURIST report].

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