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US House passes bill to expand US court jurisdiction over contractors in Iraq

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives voted 389-30 [roll call] Thursday in favor of a bill to effectively end the "de facto immunity" [JURIST report] enjoyed by many private contractors working for the US in Iraq. While Defense Department [official website] contractors are already subject to US court jurisdiction through the 2000 Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) [S 768 information], the MEJA Expansion and Enforcement Act [HR 2740 information] passed Thursday will expand US court jurisdiction to all US civilian contractors working in combat zones. US contractors are currently not subject to prosecution in Iraqi courts due to an exemption [PDF text] granted in the days of the Coalition Provisional Authority. AP has more.

The House bill comes on the heels of the conclusion of an official Iraqi investigation [JURIST report] into last month's Blackwater USA [corporate website] shooting incident, which led to up to 13 civilian deaths in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. The report, submitted to the government Thursday, calls for the Blackwater guards to be tried in Iraqi courts, and for victims to be compensated. Following the shootings, Iraq suspended [AP report] Blackwater's license to operate in the country. The FBI is currently conducting its own investigation [JURIST report] into the incident. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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