Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Arbitration For Gang Rape And Wrongful Imprisonment?

That's exactly what a former subsidiary of Halliburton, KBR, is asking for. Many US citizens have looked the other way as contractors in Iraq have been accused of financial wrongdoing and over-aggressiveness in doing their job resulting in the death of Iraqi civilians. But there can be no clerical error or assumption that force was needed in an alleged gang rape and subsequent imprisonment.

Jamie Leigh Jones talked to ABC News about why she's filed a civil suit and the details are horrific. If her allegations of gang rape by fellow employees inside the so-called secure green zone were false then a lawsuit would prove her to be a liar, but they want to resolve criminal allegations as if it were a matter no more important than a slight difference in severance pay than was promised.

Rather than having company officials telling those accused of gang rape that they would be fired, it was the alleged victim of gang rape who was treated like a criminal.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave. [...]

Finally, Jones says, she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas. "I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave,'" she said. Her father called their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.

Over 2 years ago a US citizen had to be rescued from a US contractor by agents from the US embassy and the official response is basically no comment when this woman goes public. A pathetic response communicates that what was done to Jones is no big deal and nothing that shouldn't be done to other employees.

Since she was being held without food and water, it raises the possibility that someone at KBR was hoping she'd die of dehydration inside that shipping container and then her death could be passed off as nothing more than a side effect of her bad judgment and the weather.

If you were brutally attacked by fellow employees would you want your employer to have the legal right to then hold you prisoner giving you no recourse other than arbitration?

And once you were freed would you want the evidence of the crime committed against you turned over to the company which held you against your will? No? That's exactly what happened to Jones. It should be no surprise that her rape kit is AWOL.

Over two years later, the Justice Department has brought no criminal charges in the matter. In fact, ABC News could not confirm any federal agency was investigating the case. [...] "It's very troubling," said Dean John Hutson of the Franklin Pierce Law Center. "The way the law presently stands, I would say that they don't have, at least in the criminal system, the opportunity for justice."

If KBR gets arbitration, they should be immediately banned from all US government contracts for the length of the sentences which could be given if this alleged crime were committed on US soil. No company that dismisses this blatant criminality should be entrusted with a single tax dollar or a single life with the government's cooperation.

Because of the immunity contractors were given from criminal prosecution, KBR employees who committed acts of violence and employees who conspired to cover up those crimes won't be held directly accountable for their actions. If criminal behavior results in the loss of thousands of jobs then maybe there will be less tolerance for criminality within the company's ranks.

The immunity private contractors have from criminal prosecution needs to be revoked immediately.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:56 AM   0 comments links to this post


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