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Mercenaries in the line of fire Print
 9 June 08 - A report on the role of transnational corporations presented to the Human Rights Council Wednesday (June 4), made a reference to the problem of the violations of human rights in conflict zones made by private security companies. It is an issue that human rights advocates say should be examined

Pamela Taylor/Human Rights Tribune – In a chapter on the issue of complicity in his official report to the Council, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and transnational corporations, John Ruggie, noted that the question of complicity is relevant to the context of business and human rights. The report said there are a number of cases in US courts concern alleged complicity by “public or private security forces” .

When asked by HRT to elaborate further on the topic, Mr. Ruggie denied he had addressed the issue of private security companies, saying curtly, “I spoke only about the responsibility of transnational corporations.”

Whether a quesion of symantics or matter of disagreement over which UN vehicle should take up the question of private security forces, there was little discussion of the problem inside the Council chamber. Egypt’s Omar Shalaby was alone is raising the subject, suggested that “the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be a good test-case” . He asked whether or not it would "be appropriate to expand the mandate (of the expert on transnationals) to cover also private military and security companies.”

The issue did come up however outside the Council at a meeting of NGOs who heard dramatic testimony from, Hassan Jabir Salman of Iraq who recounted how he was shot in the back four times in September 2007 by forces from the US security company Blackwater. It was a confused incident in Baghdad that ended in 17 Iraqi civilian deaths and many more wounded including Salman.

“There are many incidents with security companies that are not mentioned by the media,” said Salman.

Speaking to HRT, Ian Seiderman of Amnesty International said there is a general unwillingness to investigate and prosecute such cases and an absence of a regulatory framework in many countries. “Amnesty thinks the Rapporteur’s mandate should be broader than to simply require that these parties ‘do no harm’. “Private security companies have more than the responsibility just to protect,” he said.

Seiderman said Amnesty supports renewing the mandate for the Special Rapporter on transnationals which is currently up for review but that Amnesty would like the mandate to be expanded to require the Special Rapporteur to give more specifics, more detail, more case histories rather than giving the impression his conclusions are vague and based on assumptions.”

Switzerland’s Ambassador Muriel Berset echoed this sentiment in the interactive dialogue, saying her country “would like the Special Representative to give specific recommendations,” and to be required to provide a final report with concrete recommendations.”

One group at the Human Rights Council that is actively concerned about the problem of human rights violations by private security companies is the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries. In a statement from London on Thursday (June 5), the group said it had secured the support of several UK-based private security companies for the creation of a national and international system of regulation of their activities,

However the statement also “noted with concern that criminal accountability of individuals working for UK registered companies is in most cases not covered by British national laws.” It said that despite numerous national efforts to regulate such activities, there has been “no significant move forward has been initiated since 2005”.
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