Friday, May 27, 2011
Civilian Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction Act Hearing before Senate Committee
Professor Corn explained the history of CEJA and similar legislation. Previously, the only legislation covering civilians supporting the military overseas was the Uniform Code of Military Justice. U.S. v Averette (1970) significantly changed its applicability, as the Court of Military Appeals decided that the UCMJ only applied to civilians in times of formally declared war. MEJA—the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000—began to cover this gap, but according to Mr. Breuer, “MEJA leaves significant gaps in our enforcement capability.” Congress attempted to address this by resurrecting UCMJ applicability to contractors in 2006 by including “contingency operations,” but Professor Corn asserts that this “raises significant constitutional questions.” As a result, no law exists that clearly extends jurisdiction to contractors overseas. CEJA, much like MEJA, is designed to extend US jurisdiction to contractors overseas, but unlike MEJA, CEJA covers contractors and related employees working for groups other than the DOD. Without CEJA, this gap in jurisdiction will remain.
In short, passing CEJA would help to close the gap in jurisdiction over civilians left by MEJA, a gap which is becoming increasingly important as greater numbers of contractors employed by groups other than DOD are used in military and other operations overseas. If successful, it would bring US law to all persons involved in US operations overseas and help to squash any perceptions of impunity at home and abroad.