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.

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

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share