Sunday, May 11, 2008

KBR employes testify about rape by co-workers

(Original Post 4-10-08)
Two more women recounted their rapes by co workers for the Iraq contractor KBR in congressional testimony yesterday.

Dawn Leamon, a resident of Lena, said at a Senate subcommittee hearing she was sodomized and forced to have oral sex by a soldier and a co-worker after she drank a cocktail that made her feel strange.

She worked as a paramedic for Service Employees International Inc., a foreign subsidiary of KBR Inc., at Camp Harper near Basra, Iraq.

A second woman, Mary Beth Keniston, of Olmstead falls, OH , spoke before the subcommittee. Keniston recounted a sexual assault which occurred back in 2004 while she and her husband worked as truck drivers in Iraq.

Jamie Lee Jones, who told of her rape by co-workers and forced confinement in a shipping container as retaliation for telling, fought off tears. She testified before Congress in December.

"It bothers me that it happened again after I stood up and brought awareness to it and brought KBR to such scrutiny," Jones said during a break.

Jones sued Halburton and is waiting for a judge’s ruling on the case.

Leamon, the mother of Iraq and Afghanistan active duty soldiers, said KBR officials pressured her to sign statements with inaccuracies. After the rape, she had to provide care for one of her attackers. She reported the rape February 27, fearing for her life.

"It is very easy for a person in that part of Iraq to disappear," Leamon said. "I could disappear in a heartbeat. I could fall. I could have a head injury and it could be explained (away)."

Since Jones' December testimony, some lawmakers have pressured the Bush administration to investigate sexual assault cases like hers and hold contractors more accountable.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, the subcommittee's chairman, said at least three laws give the Justice Department authority to prosecute such cases.

"We have an unprecedented number of contractors posted in war zones and if they are victimized by their colleagues or by soldiers, the concern of this committee is they end up in legal limbo," Nelson said.

Sigal Mandelker, a Justice Department deputy assistant attorney, told Nelson the agency takes sexual assault crimes very seriously and has a team of investigators and prosecutors in Iraq to handle them and other crimes.

The agency has between four and six active investigations including one into Leamon's, Mandelker said. But she said she didn't know of any convictions for sexual assault of a contract employee.

"It can be extremely difficult to investigate these cases. As you heard today it is an unfortunate fact that the crimes occur in a war zone and there are numerous difficulties of investigating a case when the conduct occurred in a war zone," Mandelker said.

KBR’s spokeswoman said that sexual assault allegations regarding company employees are always taken seriously.

(Update 5-11-08) Jamie Lee Jones, a contractor who testified about her rape and confinement in a shipping container during her Iraq stay, has won the right to file a federal lawsuit against KBR and her attackers without arbitration. Hallibuton, the pareny company of KBR while jones worked there, said that in the employment contract that all incidents regarding employment must be resolved through arbitration.

Jones filed a lawsuit saying she was attacked while working for a Halliburton Co. subsidiary at Camp Hope, Baghdad, in 2005. Her lawsuit claims that after she endured harassment from some of the men where she lived in coed barracks, she was drugged and raped by Halliburton and KBR firefighters.

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