Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Draft U.N. Treaty Targets Security Firms in War Zones

A UN working group is leading efforts to draft a new global treaty aimed at reining in human rights abuses committed by private security firms employed din war zones.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

A United Nations Working Group that monitors the activities of mercenaries worldwide is now trying to rein in the widespread human rights abuses by private military and security companies (PMSCs), which are being increasingly deployed in war zones and peacekeeping operations.

A draft International Convention on the Regulation, Surveillance and Monitoring of PMSCs, which is to be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva next September, has already been discussed by more than 150 academics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide.

The proposed draft, which spells out legislative oversight and judicial measures to punish private security firms for any unlawful acts, has also been submitted to member states for their comments.

If the treaty is eventually approved by the U.N. General Assembly, perhaps next year, all 192 member states will be called upon to abide by it.

Amada Benavides, a member of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, told IPS a new convention was necessitated also because the current definition of "mercenaries" could not be applied to PMSCs and their employees.

A "mercenary" is categorised as an individual gun for hire, while PMSCs are collective enterprises established as legal entities.

After three years of negotiations and discussions, the Working Group has finalised a draft related exclusively to PMSCs, she added.

Asked about the extent of U.N. involvement with PMSCs, Benavides said she does not have the exact numbers, but confirmed that there are number of U.N. agencies which use these private security firms.

"There is an industry lobby promoting their services," she said.

In the 1990s, there were more than 100 new private military companies offering their services to governments, multinational companies, humanitarian agencies, NGOs and to the United Nations and its multi-billion-dollar peacekeeping operations.

According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Defence released in April, there are now more private contractors than U.S. troops in Afghanistan alone: 107,292 civilian contractors compared with 78,000 soldiers.

The duties of these PMSCs include protecting personnel and military bases, providing staff at checkpoints, training police forces, advising on security and military strategy, providing and maintaining weapons and ammunition, interrogating suspects and prisoners, providing intelligence services and even participating in combat operations, said Benavides.

The U.N. Common Supply Database (UNCSD) reportedly consists of several PMSCs, including Sandline International, IDG Security, and Greystone of the Blackwater Group.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, told IPS: "I find it deeply disturbing that the U.N. should be hiring private security firms in what is a creeping privatisation of the security functions of states and international organisations."

He said that Blackwater, and Sandline International before that, both private security firms, "have exposed the neo-mercenary character and accountability shortcomings in these arrangements, especially in the context of the Geneva Conventions" governing the rules of war, particularly in the treatment of prisoners of war (POWS) and civilians.

"The linkages of the security firms hired should be transparent to the member states of the U.N. at all times," he added.

Meanwhile, there has been a claim by 250 plaintiffs under the alien tort act accusing some of these PMSCs of rape and threats of rape; sexual assaults; electric shocks and beatings; prolonged hanging from limbs; forced nudity of POWs; hooding; isolated detention and religious intolerance.

These abuses have been prevalent mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan where military forces from the United States and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) are in command.

Following a conference on Haiti in March, which was organised by a trade association representing many PMSCs, 18 NGOs wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging that funds pledged by the United States and other members of the international community "should be directed towards rebuilding Haiti, not to international private security contractors".

The NGOs included the Centre for Constitutional Rights, the American Friends Service Committee, TransAfrica Forum, Foreign Policy in Focus, Grassroots International and the American Jewish World Service.

The estimated value of the PMSC industry rose from 33 billion dollars in 1990 to about 100 billion dollars in 2006.

That figure is expected to increase to over 200 billion dollars in 2010, according to Benavides.

The PMSCs currently operating in war zones include ArmorGroup International, Blackwater Security Consulting, Dyncorp International, EOD Technology Inc., KBR, Kulak Construction Co., Prime Projects International, PWC Logistics, Global Risks Solutions, Mitchell Jessen and Associates, the Shaw Group and Sallyport Global Services.

Some of these companies have been accused of advising the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on torture and body-guarding techniques, and also trained police forces in torture techniques in at least one Latin American country.

The killings of some 17 civilians in Nisoor Square in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in September 2007 have been attributed to one of the security contractors hired by the United States.

Additionally, some of these contractors have also been accused of several irregularities, including poor working conditions, excessive working hours, ill-treatment, and deprival of medical services to employees, particularly those from developing nations such as Nepal, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

Speaking at a recent seminar on 'Accountability for Private Security Contractors: the Role of the U.N.', Jeremy Scahill, an investigative journalist, said so far no one has been prosecuted for crimes committed by PMSCs.

"Now they are hiring private contractors to keep an eye on security contractors," said Scahill, author of "Blackwater: the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army", pointing out the irony of the situation.

Phillip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions, is quoted as saying that the existence of a zone of de facto impunity for killings by private contractors operating in Iraq and elsewhere has been tolerated for far too long.

"Government officials, with whom I met, acknowledged this lack of accountability, and it now seems to be recognised that this vacuum is neither legally or ethically defensible – nor politically sustainable," he added

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state to replace Rex Tillerson, is a “tea party” Republican who previously served as director of the CIA.

Richard Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who served as a foreign policy aide to former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been advocating regime change in Iran since even before 9/11.

John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, is now a leading advocate for regime change in both Iran and Syria based at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Dennis Ross, a U.S. diplomat who served in the Obama administration, is a fellow at the “pro-Israel” Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Sheldon Adelson is a wealthy casino magnate known for his large, influential political contributions, his efforts to impact U.S. foreign policy discourse particularly among Republicans, and his ownership and ideological direction of media outlets.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is known for his hawkish views on foreign policy and close ties to prominent neoconservatives.

For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

North Korea and Iran both understand the lesson of Libya: Muammar Qaddafi, a horrifyingly brutal dictator, gave up his nuclear weapons, was eventually ousted from power with large-scale US assistance, and was killed. However, while Iran has a long and bitter history with the United States, North Korea’s outlook is shaped by its near-total destruction by forces led by the United States in the Korean War.

Print Friendly

Europe loathes having to choose between Tehran and Washington, and thus it will spare no efforts to avoid the choice. It might therefore opt for a middle road, trying to please both parties by persuading Trump to retain the accord and Iran to limit missile ballistic programs and regional activities.

Print Friendly

Key members of Trump’s cabinet should recognize the realism behind encouraging a Saudi- and Iranian-backed regional security agreement because the success of such an agreement would not only serve long-term U.S. interests, it could also have a positive impact on numerous conflicts in the Middle East.

Print Friendly

Given that Israel failed to defeat Hezbollah in its war in Lebanon in 2006, it’s difficult to imagine Israel succeeding in a war against both Hezbollah and its newfound regional network of Shiite allies. And at the same time not only is Hezbollah’s missile arsenal a lot larger and more dangerous than it was in 2006, but it has also gained vast experience alongside its allies in offensive operations against IS and similar groups.

Print Friendly

Donald Trump should never be excused of responsibility for tearing down the respect for truth, but a foundation for his flagrant falsifying is the fact that many people would rather be entertained, no matter how false is the source of their entertainment, than to confront truth that is boring or unsatisfying or that requires effort to understand.

Print Friendly

It would be a welcome change in twenty-first-century America if the reckless decision to throw yet more unbelievable sums of money at a Pentagon already vastly overfunded sparked a serious discussion about America’s hyper-militarized foreign policy.

Print Friendly

President Trump and his advisers ought to ask themselves whether it is in the U.S. interest to run the risk of Iranian withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. Seen from the other side of the Atlantic, running that risk looks dumb.