US military pre-trial hearing begins for civilian contractor charged with Iraq crime Deirdre Jurand at 5:55 PM ET
[JURIST] A US military court opened an Article 32 hearing [press release] in Baghdad on Tuesday for a civilian military contractor accused of aggravated assault. Earlier this month, the US military charged [JURIST report] Alaa "Alex" Mohammad Ali, a dual Iraqi-Canadian citizen working as a translator in Iraq, with the February stabbing of another contractor. He is the first civilian charged by the military since a 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] granted the military jurisdiction over civilians accompanying US troops in a combat zone. His Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent to a civilian grand jury proceeding, was delayed [JURIST report] late last week. AP has more.
Prior to the 2006 UCMJ amendment, contractors working in Iraq were exempted [PDF text] from prosecution in that country. The amendment, found in Section 522 of the 2007 defense authorization bill [2 2766 materials; LawReader backgrounder], significantly changed the military's jurisdiction to bring civilian contractors within the military's jurisdiction during a "contingency operation" rather than its previous requirement that Congress actually declare war. Last fall, Congress took further steps [JURIST report] to bring US contractors within the jurisdiction of the military with the 2008 defense authorization bill [HR 1585 materials]. The issue of criminal jurisdiction over US military contractors working in Iraq gained notoriety last fall when several Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] employees allegedly killed at least eight Iraqi civilians [JURIST report]. The US Department of Justice has run into legal hurdles [JURIST report] trying to bring criminal charges against the Blackwater employees.
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, ad-free format.