Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hidden crimes in Iraq

Woman testifies she was raped by US contractors in Iraq

Wed Dec 19, 10:46 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US woman who said she was raped by US contractors in Iraq testified in Congress on Wednesday, telling legislators that she was kept under armed guard in her trailer after reporting the incident.

Jamie Leigh Jones, now 23, said that she was gang raped inside the Baghdad Green Zone in July 2005 while she was working for the Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc, which has support contracts with the US military.

US Representative Ted Poe (L) listens to testimony by Jamie ...
US Representative Ted Poe (L) listens to testimony by Jamie Leigh Jones, a former employee of the Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc in Baghdad, before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security December 19 in Washington, DC.

The US Department of Justice failed to send an attorney to the House of Representatives sub-committee hearing, which Democrat John Conyers blasted as "outrageous" and "unacceptable."

Jones told committee members that on her fourth day in Baghdad some co-workers, who she described as Halliburton-KBR firefighters, invited her for a drink. "I took two sips from the drink and don't remember anything after that," she said.

The next morning Jones woke up groggy and confused, and with a sore chest and blood between her legs. She reported the incident to KBR and was examined by an army doctor, who confirmed she had been repeatedly raped vaginally and anally.

The doctor took photographs, made notes, and handed all the evidence over to KBR personnel.

"The KBR security then took me to a trailer and then locked me in a room with two armed guards outside my door," Jones testified. "I was imprisoned in the trailer for approximately a day. One of the guards finally had mercy and let me use a phone."

Jones called her father in Texas, who called his representative in Congress, Republican Ted Poe. Poe contacted the State Department, who quickly sent personnel to rescue Jones and flew her back to Texas.

Former KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones testifies on Capitol Hill ...

The rape was so brutal she is still undergoing reconstructive surgery, Jones said.

Jones tried to get her case resolved first through KBR channels, then through the US Department of Justice. When neither course seemed to work, she gave an interview with ABC television news.

KBR has been silent on the matter, though according to ABC News the company circulated a memo among employees signed by company president and CEO Bill Utt saying that it "disputes portions of Ms. [Jamie Leigh] Jones' version and facts."

Jones said that she knows of at least 11 other women who were raped by US contractors in Iraq.

Jones' KBR contract however included a clause which prevents her from suing her employer, Poe said, which will likely force her into arbitration, which he described as "a privatized justice system with no public record, no discovery and no meaningful appeal."

There are many laws that the Department of Justice (DOJ) "can enforce with respect to contractors who commit crimes abroad, but it chooses not to," Democrat Robert Scott said.

The DOJ "seems to be taking action with respect to enforcement of criminal laws in Iraq only when it is forced to do something by embarrassing media coverage," he added.

"This is outrageous that we even have to be here today," said Conyers, adding that it shows "how far out of control the law enforcement system in Iraq is today."

There are 180,000 civilian contractor employees in Iraq, including more than 21,000 Americans, Conyers said.

While the DOJ says it is committed to law enforcement in Iraq, "they can't even give us one example of a prosecution where the victim was a civilian contractor employee in Iraq," Conyers added.

Poe was equally caustic.

The department's silence on the case "speaks volumes about the hidden crimes in Iraq," he said.

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