For Immediate Release
Brenda Bowser Soder
O -202/370-3323, C – 301/906-4460
Private Security Contractor Oversight and Accountability Concerns, Iraqi Refugee Needs will Persist Past President's Remarks
WASHINGTON - Just hours before President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a
speech marking the conclusion of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, Human
Rights First is urging the administration to refocus its energies on two
unfinished tasks tied to the region. Specifically, the organization is
calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to improve oversight
and accountability for private security contractors, a force that is
expected to more than double by the end of 2011, and to make good on
U.S. promises to assist and protect Iraqi refugees.
In a statement released today, the organization noted:
"Though the Administration states that the U.S. combat mission in
Iraq is coming to a close, the battle to improve private security
contractor oversight and accountability and efforts to provide solutions
for displaced Iraqis will continue. Tonight's speech offers President
Obama the opportunity to tell Americans and the rest of the world that
these important missions remain a priority for his administration.
"As the U.S. State Department plans to increase the number of its
Iraq-based private security contractors from 2,700 to 7,000, the United
States has an obligation to ensure that these employees are subject to
proper oversight and adequate accountability mechanisms. To date, there
remains a serious gap in the law that does not give U.S. courts criminal
jurisdiction over all private security contractors employed by the
State Department. It is essential that the Obama Administration and
Congress work together to pass the Civilian Extraterritorial
Jurisdiction Act, legislation designed to bridge that gap.
"Separately, the administration should strengthen U.S. resolve to
improve conditions for displaced Iraqis within Iraq and maintain robust
resettlement for vulnerable Iraqi refugees in the region, including
those who worked with the United States. Currently there are more than
200,000 Iraqi refugees registered with the UN refugee agency in the
region, many of whom have lived in exile for over five years which has
exhausted their savings and increased their vulnerability. As violence
and insecurity persist in Iraq, prospects for significant returns are
unlikely, especially as Iraqis continue to seek safety in neighboring
countries. The United States has a moral obligation – and strategic
interest – to lead the international community in responding to the
protection concerns of Iraqi displaced persons.
"Tonight, the President has an opportunity to demonstrate his
leadership on these important issues. Human Rights First and many others
will be listening for reassurance that the administration's statement
of an end to U.S. combat activities in Iraq does not mean an end to the
many missions that remain unfinished in the region."
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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.