Plans for self-regulation of UK mercenaries slammed following killings in Iraq

10 August 2009 - 3:15pm
Press release

NEWS HOOK Monday, 10 August 2009 -- Reports that a security contractor working for British private military company ArmorGroup shot dead two colleagues in Iraq


Charity calls for tough legislation to curb abuses

Today War on Want demanded that the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband scrap proposals for UK private military companies to police themselves or risk further killings in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The warning follows reports that a security contractor working for British private military company ArmorGroup shot dead two colleagues, one Australian and one British, and injured an Iraqi in Baghdad.

In a public consultation, which concluded in July, the UK government rejected all the available regulatory options for private military and security companies and recommended self-regulation for the industry despite calls from British MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee for strict curbs on these firms.

War on Want has spearheaded the campaign for tough legislation, including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat and combat support.

Ruth Tanner, Campaigns and Policy Director, War on Want said "These killings are a reminder of the havoc which private military and security companies have wreaked in Iraq over the past six years. The British government has responded by suggesting that mercenaries police themselves leaving civilians in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq exposed to further abuse."

The charity points to the hundreds of human rights abuses which have involved UK and US private armies in Iraq and Afghanistan. These include:

  • the wounding of two Iraqi civilians when mercenaries from the UK company Erinys International fired on a cab near Kirkuk.
  • mercenaries with the US firm Blackwater, now renamed Xe, shooting at and killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
  • mercenaries working for the NATO coalition shooting the Kandahar police chief and nine of his officers in Afghanistan.

Over the last three years, the UK has spent more than £148 million on contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

ArmorGroup has been one of the British Government's favoured private military contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


NOTES TO EDITORS

War on Want led the call for control over private military companies when the charity launched its report Corporate Mercenaries.

  • A year later, War on Want stepped up its drive after the Blackwater and Erinys shootings.
  • In December 2007, the charity published the briefing paper Getting Away with Murder. It cited reporters of hundreds of human rights violations by mercenary troops in Iraq to strengthen its campaign for curbs, including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat.
  • In February last year War on Want launched a legal challenge on the British government over its failure to ensure democratic control over private armies.
  • Last July the charity accused the UK of blocking regulation after a document, acquired under freedom of information laws, revealed ministers went close to launching pre-legislative consultation.

CONTACT: Ruth Tanner, War on Want (+44) (0)20 7549 0583 or (+44) (0)7811469547

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