Thursday, November 1, 2007

Iraqi Parliment Votes to End Blackwaters Immunity

"The Iraqi government's decision followed reports that the State Department had promised Blackwater guards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of the shootings. On Tuesday, the State Department confirmed that some Blackwater employees questioned in connection with the shootings had been granted a form of immunity in exchange for their statements.
The draft law canceling the private security firms' immunity was written by the legal adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. It would overturn a measure known as Order 17, dating from the administration of L. Paul Bremer III.
Under the version approved by the cabinet, foreign security companies would have to meet several criteria, including a requirement that all their weapons be licensed by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Their equipment, including helicopters and armored vehicles, would have to be registered with the appropriate Iraqi agencies and all foreign employees would have to obtain visas from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.
Currently, many contractors in Iraq, including those who work for security firms, enter the country without regular visas because they have badges that say they work with the Defense Department or another agency either of the United States or of a country in the American-led coalition. The Iraqi government previously accepted the badges rather than requiring visas.
"This decision does not just cover Blackwater; it will cover all the foreign security firms operating in Iraq," said Thamir Ghadban, the chairman of Mr. Maliki's council of advisers. "This law will protect Iraqis and Iraq's sovereignty."

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