Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Decision in the Blackwater Trial

[Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued the following comment Wednesday after the verdict was handed down in the Blackwater trial. A jury found one Blackwater security guard guilty of first-degree murder and three other guards guilty of voluntary manslaughter.  Leahy is the author of the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA), a bill he introduced in July that would close a gap in current law and ensure that government employees and contractors working overseas can be prosecuted in the United States for criminal acts they commit abroad.  Currently, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act provides criminal jurisdiction over Defense Department employees and contractors, but it does not explicitly cover people working for other federal agencies, such as the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, unless they are operating in support of a DOD mission. CEJA would fill this gap and provide federal jurisdiction over all government contractors and employees.]


“I applaud today’s verdict, which comes seven years after Blackwater security contractors working for the State Department opened fire on unarmed civilians on the streets of Baghdad, killing at least 14 of them and injuring many others. Efforts to prosecute those responsible for these shootings have been fraught with difficulties, and the lack of clarity regarding U.S. jurisdiction over these crimes complicated the initial prosecution and investigation.  It should not have taken this long for justice to be served.  My bill, the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA), would clarify U.S. jurisdiction so we can effectively prosecute wrongdoers without delay, and uphold the rule of law.  Ensuring that our government has the ability to hold government contractors accountable should be a bipartisan issue, and I hope Senators of both parties will work together to pass this important reform.”

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