Justice Department Reverses Position, Will Send Official To Testify About Contractor Rape Claims

kbr.jpgLast December, while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee about how she had been gang-raped by her co-workers while working in Iraq, former KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones noted that “there has been no prosecution after two and a half years.” During the same hearing, Jones’s congressman, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) said that the justice system had “failed” Jones.

Poe also noted that the Justice Department had refused to send a representative to the hearing:

It is interesting to note that the Department of Justice has thousands of lawyers, but not one from the barrage of attorneys is here to tell us what, if anything, they are doing. Their absence and silence speaks volumes about the hidden crimes of Iraq.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called the Justice Department’s no show “an absolute disgrace,” adding that he was “embarrassed” by the Department. The Department responded to press inquiries about the absence by saying only that it was “investigating this matter.”

But now, according to ABC News, the Justice Department has had “an apparent reversal of policy” and will “send an official to answer questions before Congress on the investigation and prosecution of alleged sex crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan”:

Sigal Mandelker, a senior appointee in the criminal division, is slated to appear before the Foreign Relations Committee, the Justice Department confirmed. Justice spokesman Erik Ablin said Mandelker was appearing for this hearing because the department had “received assurances” that it will not be questioned about any pending matters. The House hearing, he said, “concerned a pending matter that was under investigation.”

Since the Dec. 2007 hearing that featured Jones, more women have come forward alleging that they were victims of sexual assault while working in Iraq. At least one of those alleged rape victims, whose story was revealed in The Nation last week, will testify at the same hearing as Mandelker.