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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid