Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act

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The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) is a law intended to place military contractors under U.S. law.[1][2] The law was used to prosecute former Marine Corps Sgt. Jose Luis Nazario, Jr. for the killing of unarmed Iraqi detainees, though he was ultimately acquitted.[2]


MEJA was a bill passed in 2000 that allowed persons who are "employed by or accompanying the armed forces" overseas may be prosecuted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 for any offense that would be punishable by imprisonment for more than one year if committed within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

"Employed by the armed forces" is defined to include civilian employees of the Department of Defense (DoD) as well as its contractors and their employees (including subcontractors at any tier), and, after October 8, 2004, civilian contractors and employees from other federal agencies and "any provisional authority," to the extent that their employment is related to the support of the Department of Defense mission overseas.[3]

By the wording, MEJA is supposed to apply to Private Military Contractors and Private Security Contractors that previously fell out of the jurisdiction of being civilians or military personnel.


The Department of Justice has reported that 12 persons have been charged under MEJA since its passage in 2000, with several investigations underway that may result in charges.[4] Very few successful prosecutions involving DOD contractors in Iraq under MEJA have been reported. A contractor working in Baghdad pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in February 2007.[5] Another contract employee was prosecuted for abusive sexual contact involving a female soldier that occurred at Talil Air Force Base in 2004.[6] A contract employee was indicted for assaulting another contractor with a knife in 2007.[7]


To date, the MEJA has been successfully used in four prosecutions. LaTasha Arnt was charged with stabbing her husband to death on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in May 2003. She was extradited to stand trial in federal court in California, and later she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Also, Aaron Langston, a resident of Snowflake, Arizona, was formally charged with assaulting a fellow contractor in Iraq with a knife. Langston was indicted by a federal grand jury in Phoenix on March 1, 2007. He was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison for the offense.

Steven D. Green was successfully prosecuted under the MEJA for his participation in the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl, and the mass murder of her family. A private first class at the time of the killings, Green was honorably discharged just over two months after the incident due to a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder. At that point his involvement in the crime had not yet come to the attention of the authorities.[8] The federal district court ultimately sentenced him to five consecutive life sentences. While the death penalty was available, the jury was unable to unanimously agree on it. (Green died Feb 15, 2014 cause of death was ruled suicide by hanging.) [8] [9]

On April 13, 2015, four former employees of the private defense contractor Blackwater USA (now Academi) were convicted under the MEJA for the massacre of fourteen Iraqi civilians on September 16, 2007. Three of the defendants received sentences of thirty years, while the fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was sentenced to life imprisonment. The men were members of a Blackwater unit assigned to secure Nisoor square in central Baghdad when they opened fire on a crown of unarmed civilians. In all, fourteen Iraqis were killed and seventeen were wounded.[10]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues" (PDF). August 25, 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  4. ^ Closing Legal Loopholes: Prosecuting Sexual Assaults and Other Violent Crimes Committed Overseas by American Civilians in a Combat Environment, Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 110th Cong. (April 9, 2008) (Statement of Sigal P. Mandelker, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Department of Justice).
  5. ^ Press Release, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Military Contractor Sentenced for Possession of Child Pornography in Baghdad (May 25, 2007), available at [1]
  6. ^ United States v. Maldonado, 215 Fed. Appx. 938 (11th Cir. 2007) (unpublished). The opinion does not explain the jurisdictional basis for the prosecution
  7. ^ Press Release, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Military Man Charged with Assaulting Woman on U.S. Military Base in Iraq, March 1, 2007
  8. ^ a b "United States v. Green" (PDF). Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Wednesday - 2/19/2014, 2:10pm ET BRETT BARROUQUERE Associated Press
  10. ^