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Iraq: Administration of Justice

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 15 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to seek to extend extra-territorial jurisdiction to allow the British prosecuting authorities to prosecute alleged offences by contractors working for HM Government in Iraq. (205427)

[holding answer 14 May 2008]: Future policy options are under review. We believe that our current working relationships, and contracts with our contractors in Iraq, ensure that any cases of alleged crime or misconduct would be brought to our attention promptly, so that we could investigate. Where such misconduct is substantiated our procurement guidelines specify that we can terminate the contract. We expect the highest professional standards of those holding Government contracts.

On the broader issue of the regulation of the overseas operations of private military and security companies, registered in or operating from the UK, my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Jack Straw), requested a review by officials of the options. The review was completed in 2005 and considered ways forward including self-regulation, national regulation—based on export controls—and/or company licensing systems. We have also considered international regulation on the basis of common international values and norms. However, the review and subsequent analysis, has also highlighted difficulties with regard to implementation or enforcement, with respect to each of the options. We have also considered the complex legal matter of extra-territorial jurisdiction. These issues have since been the subject of extensive Ministerial correspondence and official consultation. If it is decided that regulation is appropriate, the Government will put the proposals to public consultation.