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

Although sometimes characterized as a Republican “maverick” for his bipartisan forays into domestic policy, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the Senate’s more vocal hawks.


Former CIA director Michael Hayden, a stalwart advocate of the Bush-era policies on torture and warrantless wiretapping, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


A right-wing Christian and governor of Kansas, Brownback previously served in the U.S. Senate, where he gained a reputation as a leading social conservative as well as an outspoken “pro-Israel” hawk on U.S. Middle East policy.


Steve Forbes, head of the Forbes magazine empire, is an active supporter of a number of militarist policy organizations that have pushed for aggressive U.S. foreign policies.


Stephen Hadley, an Iraq War hawk and former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, now chairs the U.S. Institute for Peace.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The Trump administration appears to have been surprised by this breach among its friends in the critical Gulf strategic area. But it is difficult to envision an effective U.S. role in rebuilding this Humpty-Dumpty.


Print Friendly

A recent vote in the European Parliament shows how President Trump’s relentless hostility to Iran is likely to isolate Washington more than Tehran.


Print Friendly

The head of the Institute for Science and International Security—aka “the Good ISIS”—recently demonstrated again his penchant for using sloppy analysis as a basis for politically explosive charges about Iran, in this case using a faulty translation from Persian to misleadingly question whether Tehran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.”


Print Friendly

Trump has exhibited a general preference for authoritarians over democrats, and that preference already has had impact on his foreign policy. Such an inclination has no more to do with realism than does a general preference for democrats over authoritarians.


Print Friendly

The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.


Print Friendly

Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.


Print Friendly

Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.


RightWeb
share