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Draft Law Puts Foreign Companies Under Iraqi Jurisdiction

U.S. security contractors hold positions near the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad
BAGHDAD -- A law giving Iraqi courts jurisdiction over foreign companies such as U.S. security contractor Blackwater is being drafted in the Iraqi parliament.

Abbas al-Bayati, a member of the defense and security committee, noted in comments to RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq on April 7 that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between the United States and Iraq in November does not protect private companies from prosecution in Iraqi courts. U.S. defense contractors had previously enjoyed impunity because they were subject neither to Iraqi law nor U.S. military law.

Al-Bayati added that foreign embassies have been told to be careful whom they hire security staff because Iraqis are very apprehensive about foreign security companies.

The bill – now in two separate drafts – will fall in line with the SOFA provisions and make it unlawful for foreign companies working in Iraq to enjoy legal immunity.

Blackwater has come under intense criticism for its operations in Iraq since a September 2007 incident in which its guards opened fire in Baghdad traffic, killing 17 Iraqis.