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UN Week – 8/30/2010

September 4, 2010

by John and Douglas Carey, Editors, 

Contents of this issue: private parties waging war.

           As the US converts its function in Iraq from combat to training, we hear that the presence of private parties in that country will be increasing, very likely performing tasks that the military had been doing but probably at greater cost to US taxpayers. Some facts about the use of private parties can be found in recent reports of the UN’s Working Group on the use of mercenaries.

The Working Group’s report, A/HRC/15/25/Add.2, states that: “Afghanistan, together with Iraq, represents the largest theatre of operations for private military and security companies (PMSCs). The United States, which has the largest military and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, is the principal employer of private security in the country. Since 2005, the deterioration of the security situation due to a growing insurgency has led to an increased demand for security, on particular from the international community. The Government of Afghanistan has acknowledged its limitations in providing adequate security to the international community present in its territory and allowed for foreign and national private security companies to supply additional security.

“The Government of Afghanistan has also stressed the need for prompt adoption of procedures to regulate and monitor the activities of those companies, saying that the lack of rules governing the activities carried out by PMSCs created a culture of impunity dangerous for the stability of the country. Civil society had a negative perception of the large presence of PMSCs, in particular with regard to the difficulty of differentiating the legal army and police from foreign troops, PMSCs or even illegal armed groups.”

Another report of the Working Group, A/HRC/15/25/Aded.3, started at 1 with this summary: “At the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, the Working Group . . . visited the United States from 20 July to 3 August 2009. * * * The Government of the United States relies heavily on the private military and security industry in conducting its worldwide military operations. Private military and security companies (PMSCs) from the United States dominate this new industry, which earns an estimated 20 billion to 100 billion dollars annually. The overall number of contractors in 2009 amounted to 244,000. Private forces constitute about half of the total United States force deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“In the last few years, and largely in reaction to incidents involving PMSCs, the Government of the United States and Congress adopted various measures increasing the Government oversight over PMSCs and expanding and clarifying jurisdiction over offences committed by private militaries and security personnel operating abroad. The Working Group welcomes the adoption of these measures, which have improved the situation, but notes that much remains to be done to ensure effective oversight, accountability and legal remedy when human rights violations occur.

“With a view to improving its oversight mechanism and ensuring a climate of accountability, the Working Group recommends that the Government of the United States, inter alia: (a) support the Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which clearly defines the functions which are inherently governmental and that cannot be outsourced to the private sector; (b) rescind immunity to contractors carrying out activities in other countries under bilateral agreements; (c) carry out prompt and effective investigation of human rights violations committed by PMSCs and prosecute alleged perpetrators; (d) ensure that the oversight of private military and security contractors is not outsourced to PMSCs; (e) establish a specific system of federal licensing of PMSCs for their activities abroad; (f) set up a vetting procedure for awarding contracts to PMSCs; (g) ensure that United States criminal jurisdiction applies to private military and security companies contracted by the Government to carry out activities abroad; and (h) respond to pending communications from the Working Group, . . .”

“95. In September 2009, a federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against CACI and L-3 Services, saying the companies had immunity as government contractors. The judge explaining the ruling said that ‘during wartime, where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains commend authority, a tort claim rising out of the contractor’s engagement in such activities shall be pre-empted’. One judge dissented, stating that ‘no act of Congress and no judicial precedent bars the plaintiffs from suing the private contractors – who are neither soldiers nor civilian government employees’.

“96. No employee of either company has been convicted of an offence in relation to this. The Working Group requested a meeting with CACI but the request was denied. CACI stated that the company was not a PMSC – but an information technology company – and therefore did not fall under the mandate of the Group. Nevertheless it recognized that at the request of the United States Army, the company did provide intelligence analysts and interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison.” Id. at 21.

Evidently, there is room for improvement in how PMSCs are classified and their personnel disciplined We will hope to see positive developments along those lines in the near future as our roles in Iraq Afghanistan unfold. That’s all for this August 30th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send along your own views on these or other UN-related subject to www. Good-bye for now, and thanks for watching.

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