News

'Poverty pay shames clothes stores'

6 December 2007 - 11:09am

Primark, Tesco, Asda, Topshop under fire

'Stop mercenaries abuse' call

3 December 2007 - 5:27pm

Miliband pressed on regulation

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Tuesday, 4 December 2007

New evidence revealed today shows a growing tide of human rights abuses in Iraq by private armies as the UK government spends millions of pounds on unregulated mercenaries.

In a briefing, Getting Away with Murder, the anti-poverty charity War on Want lists a series of abuses committed by guards employed by private security companies. These include mercenaries working for the UK group Erinys International, who opened fire on a taxi near Kirkuk, wounding three civilians, in October. In the same month mercenaries from the Australian company Unity Resources Group killed two Iraqi women. In September mercenaries from the American private security company Blackwater killed 17 Iraqi civilians. In November an Iraqi taxi driver was shot dead by mercenaries with DynCorp International, hired to protect US diplomats.

The briefing coincides with the annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies in London. War on Want, calling for legislation including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat, cites hundreds of incidents which have involved guards from British firms ArmorGroup and Aegis Defence Services in shootings. In the first four months of 2007 mercenaries working for UK company ArmorGroup were attacked 293 times. Aegis mercenaries have been attacked 168 times in the last three years and have seen eight employees killed, according to its chief executive officer, Tim Spicer. Spicer broke a UN arms embargo on Sierra Leone with his former company Sandline International, and was jailed in Papua New Guinea for earlier activities.

Iraq has turned mercenaries' work into a multi-billion pound industry, with UK private security firms among the biggest winners, increasing profits from £320 million in 2003 to £1.8 billion in 2004. The British government has spent £179 million between 2003/2004 and 2007/2008 on contracts with private security companies in Iraq and £46 million during the same period in Afghanistan.

Erinys International was granted a $100 million contract to guard oil installations and pipelines in Iraq. The UK government has just given ArmorGroup a £20 million annual contract for security services in Afghanistan. In the last 12 months ArmorGroup has received contracts for private security services totalling over $273 million. The firm earned $133 million in Iraq last year. Aegis has won a new contract with the Pentagon worth $475 million over the next two years.

The United Nations working group on mercenaries has renewed its call for regulation by all governments in countries where private security companies are based. In the US the House of Representatives has passed the Military and Security Contracting Act, establishing American control over private security firms. Other bills in the House and Senate call for more wide-ranging oversight and accountability. A bill passed by the Iraqi cabinet, now debated in parliament, seeks to overturn the Coalition Provisional Authority order 17 that had allowed immunity for private security companies.

Ruth Tanner, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Mounting human rights abuses by mercenary firms making a killing in Iraq are fuelling demands for legislation. But while the US and Iraqi governments move towards controls, UK ministers fail to take action. It is high time foreign secretary David Miliband followed suit with strong measures to curb these private armies."

NEWSHOOK: 2.00-9.00 pm Tuesday, 4 December 2007 - Annual conference held by the British Association of Private Security Companies, Royal Geographical Society, Exhibition Road, near 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR

End

Contact: Paul Collins, (+44) (0)7983 550728

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UK mining companies complicit in abuse of poor

19 November 2007 - 10:35pm

Vedanta, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton accused

NEWS HOOK: Mines and Money World Congress opens on 20 November 2007 at the Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 0QH

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Tuesday 20 November 2007

British mining corporations supported by the UK government, such as Vedanta Resources, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, are complicit in human rights abuse while making huge profits in developing countries.

This charge is made today by the anti-poverty charity War on Want in a report which attacks these and other UK companies for fuelling conflict and violence against vulnerable people. War on Want launched the report, Fanning the Flames, as the Mines and Money World Congress for the booming industry opens in London today.

Ruth Tanner, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "The British government has championed the cause of UK mining firms across the world. Yet the industry is complicit in a range of human rights abuses and is profiting at the expense of the poor. It is time for the British government to take action to stop these abuses."

The report is launched in the wake of the Norwegian government's decision to drop Vedanta from its global pension fund due to "systematic" environmental and human rights failures.Vedanta's bid for mining rights in the Indian state of Orissa faces mounting opposition from thousands of Dongaria Kandha tribal people who fear the company's plans will damage the fragile ecosystem of the Niyamgiri mountain forest, on which they depend for their livelihoods. According to the report, the Indian Supreme Court heard evidence that people forced to leave their villages to make way for the refinery were beaten.

Dandu Sikaka, a Dongaria tribal woman, said: "How will we survive without Niyamgiri, the mountain? Our streams will dry up. If they mine, it will become a disaster. We will all die if you dig out our forest."

The report pinpoints other Vedanta involvement in abuse in India. At Mettur in Tamil Nadu, the company is accused of seizing land, with discharge from its aluminium plant poisoning farm soil, contaminating water and killing animals, and emissions from the plant and coal-fired power station causing severe health problems for local people. One non-governmental investigation found that male bauxite workers at Mainpat in Chhattisgarh state earned just over 60 rupees, about 80p, for delivering one tonne of ore, with women paid even less. The workers live in small thatched hovels perched over the quarry, denied electricity and adequate water.

Last year Rio Tinto earned $122 million from its stake in the Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua, Indonesia, where local people have suffered years of serious human rights and environmental abuse.

BHP Billiton is pressing for new mining opportunities in the Philippines, despite a wave of murders and other human rights violations linked to the extractive industry.

In addition the report cites abuse surrounding operations by UK mining companies Anglo American, Oxus Gold, Global Coal Management, Monterrico Metals and Xstrata in countries such as South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, Peru, Zambia and Colombia.


CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

NOTES TO EDITORS: Fanning the Flames can be downloaded from here. Information on the Mines and Money World Congress can be downloaded at http://www.event-space.com/mines/home.asp

Struggle for Housing in Kliptown, South Africa Continues

19 November 2007 - 5:33pm

Residents of Kliptown, a residential area near Soweto, have been living with a housing crisis for over a decade. Recent protests were met with gunfire from local police. Anti Privatisation Forum (APF) organiser Silumko Radebe has written an update of how they are fighting for the basic rights of Kliptown's residents.

UK premiere for Brazil poverty film

14 November 2007 - 10:00am

A landmark film on Brazilians threatened by corporate power will get its first UK screening tonight (14 November 2007).

First Iraq graphic novel launched

6 November 2007 - 3:49pm

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today publishes the first political graphic novel on contemporary Iraq.

Competition Commission backs down on tackling supermarket power

31 October 2007 - 4:41pm

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today attacked the Competition Commission interim report on supermarkets.

'Ban UK mercenaries' call after new shootings

19 October 2007 - 5:54pm

The British government should outlaw private military and security companies from operating in conflict zones such as Iraq, the charity War on Want said today.

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