Monday, May 03, 2004

Crime And Punishment

Ever since the Abu Ghraib story broke, I've been thinking about the private military corporation (PMC) DynCorp. About two years ago, Salon published evidence that DynCorp employees in Bosnia bought women - and girls as young as twelve - to use as sex slaves. What brings the story to mind right now is that none of the Dyncorp employees or their supervisors were ever charged with a crime. Salon outlines what happened:
The investigation was opened when the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (known as CID) received allegations that DynCorp employees were buying women to use as sex slaves. When CID started the investigation, the Army's Office of the Staff Judge Advocate for Bosnia-Hercegovina said that the office did not have jurisdiction to prosecute civilian contractors. So the CID conducted its investigation and turned it over to the Zivinice, Bosnia, police.

But it wasn't clear whether the Bosnian police had jurisdiction, either. When the investigation began, according to CID's report, the judge advocate's office was under the impression that contractors were protected from Bosnian prosecution by the Dayton Peace Accords, which govern the relationship between Bosnia-Hercegovina and the international stabilization forces in the region. The issue was clarified somewhat when the Army CID found an "Interpretation of the Agreement Between NATO and the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina," which allowed for Bosnian prosecution of contractors. CID agents then handed the case over to the Bosnian police. [...]

The issue became moot, however, when the Army and DynCorp pulled the accused men out of the country. The act effectively ended all investigations and ensured that the men would never face criminal charges unless they returned to Bosnia-Hercegovina, and perhaps not even then.
Given the role that "civilian" interrogators, PMC employees, apparently played in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, it's obvious why the Bosnia story has been on my mind. According to Phil Carter, the option of local prosecution doesn't even exist in Iraq, because the puppet Coalition Provisional Authority has decided that "contractors and other foreign personnel will not be subject to Iraqi criminal processes." However, this time the contractors may not be off the hook under U.S. law.

Frequent Respectful of Otters commenter (and lawyer) Pat Greene has unearthed U.S. Code Section 2340A, which makes it a federal crime for U.S. citizens to engage in torture anywhere in the world. Phil Carter notes that the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 closes the loophole that protected DynCorp employees in Bosnia, by establishing federal jurisdiction over crimes committed by civilians who are attached to military operations overseas. Carter also notes that war crimes are a federal offense, no matter where they are committed. (I guess that the forced prostitution of twelve-year-old Bosnian girls doesn't qualify as a war crime, huh.) Taken together, it seems that the PMC employees involved in the Abu Ghraib atrocities are anything but untouchable. If they're not prosecuted, that will be someone's choice.

Incidentally, if you have a strong stomach, this New Yorker article provides more details about the offenses and the investigation. It appears that Military Intelligence may have played a larger role than was apparent from the initial 60 Minutes report. I'm going to leave it to people with more military knowledge than I have to explain why only the MPs have been court-martialed, and not anyone from MI.