News / Africa

UN Rights Group Urges Greater Regulation of Mercenaries

Lisa Schlein

A United Nations watchdog group is calling for greater regulation and accountability of mercenaries and private security companies, which often have close links. The U.N. Working Group on the use of mercenaries has submitted its findings on missions to Iraq and Equatorial Guinea to the U.N. Human Rights Council.  

The U.N. Working Group says tighter controls are needed to reduce incidents of human rights abuse by private military and security companies. It reports it is encouraged by what it found during its mission to Iraq.

It says there has been a decrease in serious incidents involving men for hire over the last few years. It attributes this to the reduction in military activity, to stricter regulation by the Iraqi authorities and greater oversight by the United States of its private security contractors working in Iraq.

Immunity remains key issue

Despite the improved situation, the Working Group says the issue of immunity remains a sensitive issue for Iraq. This problem came fully into focus in September 2007, when contractors of the U.S. military firm, Blackwater, killed 17 Iraqis at Baghdad’s Nissour Square.

The chairperson of the Working Group, Faiza Patel, said the families of the victims still have not received compensation for these killings and no one has been held criminally accountable.

Blackwater no longer works in Iraq, but other private contractors continue to provide mobile security to the U.S. Defense Department and private companies. Patel told VOA that new rules of engagement and tighter identification of these contractors is minimizing the risks.

“The way in which any incidents are handled has also been regulated more firmly. So, for example, I believe it is the U.S. that requires all of its contractors to have video cameras so there is a recording of any incident that happens," she said. "So, you have actual evidence because that is always a big issue. I think it continues to be an issue, but… our information is the kinds of abuses that we saw shortly in the period immediately after the U.S. went in have certainly diminished.”   

In response to these findings, the Iraqi representative to the U.N. noted how difficult it is for his government to monitor and control the activities of private companies. He called on the governments where the private military companies are located to punish those that violate Iraqi law.

Classic mercenary scenario

Equatorial Guinea presents a classic mercenary situation. Traditionally, mercenaries are soldiers hired to fight in an armed conflict or to overthrow a government. The U.N. Working Group says mercenaries pose a threat to security and to the human rights and self-determination of people.  

The mission to Equatorial Guinea focuses on the investigations and prosecutions relating to the attempted coup d’etat in March 2004 and to the armed attack on the presidential palace by alleged mercenaries on February 17, 2009.

Patel called this a difficult mission. She said the Working Group is very disturbed by the treatment of people accused of being mercenaries.

“When we were there, we asked for access to people accused of mercenary activities. We were not allowed to meet with these people," said Patel. "We know that they were tried in a very summary fashion. They were not given any right to appeal. They did not have basic procedural safeguards. The Working Group was very disturbed because the day after we left Equatorial Guinea, they actually executed the men who had been convicted in this procedurally flawed trial.”  

A representative of Equatorial Guinea accuses the Working Group of not taking into account all of the information made available to it. The representative assured the Human Rights Council that his government is taking steps to reform its legal system and is doing what it can to provide protection of human rights.

You May Like

Sambisa Forest Stands Between Nigeria, Victory Over Boko Haram

Military takes back nearly all towns, villages in northeast, except for massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states More

Islamic State Recruiting Stokes Fears for Parents in Georgia

Chechens are a notable part of Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq, and analysts fear what might happen if those fighters return to the Caucasus More

Yarmouk Camp Becomes Distant Memory for Palestinian Diaspora

Once thriving capital of Palestinian diaspora, after siege by Syrian government forces and Islamic State group, camp becomes 'deepest circle of hell' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'i
X
Sharon Behn
April 21, 2015 9:18 PM
A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten. Sharon Behn reports on the politics of the word genocide on the 100th anniversary of the events.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video German Program Helps Migrants Overcome Traumatic Experience at Sea

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk life and limb to reach safety in Europe. Those who have made it to European shores are traumatized by the experience. A program in Germany helps survivors overcome the trauma by giving a new perspective to their catastrophic experience. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs