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Congress Seeks to Extend Federal Court Jurisdiction Over Employees and Civilians Accompanying US Mis

On February 2, bills were presented in both the House of Representatives and Senate which would expand upon the jurisdiction granted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA). MEJA extends United States federal court jurisdiction to civilians and employees who are accompanying a mission of the Department of Defense. The proposed bill is known as the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA). CEJA extends the jurisdiction of the United States federal courts to the action of civilians and employees of the United States outside the territory of United States while they are employed or accompanying any department or agency of the U.S. other than the armed forces. It appears that this proposed legislation is meant to fill the hole left by MEJA only applying to employees and civilians accompanying a mission of the Department of Defense abroad. CEJA would only apply to felony offenses and explicitly provides for jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, murder, and manslaughter. CEJA does not, however, extend jurisdiction to nationals of the host country, even if they are employed by the United States.

Both MEJA and CEJA are important because they apply the jurisdiction of federal courts to private military contractors (PMCs). PMCs have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their utilization prompted serious questions about what laws, if any, applied to them during their employment. This was especially so after several accusations of PMC misconduct, the most notable of which occurred at Nisour Square, Baghdad in 2007.

MEJA’s text can be found here.

CEJA’s text can be found here (House version), and here (Senate version).


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