The Iraqi government has approved draft legislation revoking immunity from prosecution for employees of private security firms. The law, which must now go before parliament, would put contractors directly under Iraqi jurisdiction for the first time since the US-led invasion in 2003. The move comes after reports that the US offered partial immunity to staff from the Blackwater agency involved in the fatal shooting of 17 Iraqis.
Refusing to confirm the claims, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “We can’t immunise people here at the Department of State from federal prosecution. And even limited protections that we’ve talked about, that I’ve read about in the press, those limited protections do not include federal prosecution.”
The incident in Baghdad six weeks ago is now being investigated by the FBI. It provoked outrage among Iraqis, many of whom believe US security firms in the country were operating above the law.
An Iraqi inquiry found that the guards fired without provocation, but Blackwater insists its staff acted in self-defence.