Expanded UCMJ Jurisdiction Over Constractors: A Paper Tiger?
AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLL MAXWELL AFB AL
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In the wake of Abu Ghraib and other highly publicized incidents such as the alleged murder of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater employees, the call for ensuring accountability for contractors working with the U.S. government abroad reached an all time high. Many felt contractors working alongside the military overseas fell into a jurisdictional gap and escaped justice for their alleged crimes. This perception is especially troublesome in the context of counterinsurgencies, where winning the hearts and minds of the local populace is essential. In response to such concerns, Congress expanded Uniform Code of Military Justice UCMJ jurisdiction over civilians by adding those serving with or accompanying the armed forces in contingency operations within its reach. In doing so Congress breathed potential life into a part of the code that has remained dormant for over 30 years. However, statutory construction, constitutionality, and DoD implementation will all serve to limit the utility of this new option for ensuring contractor accountability. Accordingly, it is necessary to consider the potential reach of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act MEJA, another Congressional attempt to close the jurisdictional gap. MEJA has been amended to broaden the scope of its coverage, yet additional amendments are necessary as its coverage remains ambiguous. Additionally, MEJAs track record has been poor, indicating more priority and resources are needed within the DoJ. Still, an improved MEJA offers a more sound avenue to ensuring contractor accountability in conflicts than the UCMJ.
- Sociology and Law
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