Afghanistan: UN experts urge stepped-up supervision of US security contractors

19 October 2010

A United Nations group of independent human rights experts today called for stronger supervision of United States private security contractors working in Afghanistan and elsewhere, welcoming a recent US report into the role and oversight of these companies.

A United Nations group of independent human rights experts today called for stronger supervision of United States private security contractors working in Afghanistan and elsewhere, welcoming a recent US report into the role and oversight of these companies.

The findings of the report by the US Senate Committee on Armed Services are consistent with that of the experts following their visit to Afghanistan last April, said Alexander Nikitin, the chairperson of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries.

He noted that the US study revealed the many problems raised by the absence of adequate oversight over the private military and security companies contracted by the US Government in Afghanistan.

“Because of the lack of effective vetting procedures, in particular, some of these companies employed individuals who may have been involved in human rights abuses in the past and continued to be involved in human rights violations while employed by these companies,” Mr. Nikitin said.

The Working Group noted during its visit to Afghanistan that former armed elements, whether considered to be warlords or anti-government elements, were not effectively prevented from registering as employees of officially licensed private security companies.

Given the lack of systematic and effective vetting and training procedures, and the absence of adequate sanctions in case of violations, the UN expert body had recommended that governments contracting private security companies in Afghanistan establish adequate oversight and accountability mechanisms.

During the Group’s visit to the US in July last year, it also recommended that the Government establish a more vigorous vetting procedure before awarding contracts. “The problems faced in Afghanistan illustrate once again the importance of and the pressing need for a strong system of regulation and oversight of private military and security companies,” said Mr. Nikitin.

“The matters discussed in the United States Senate report are too important to be left to self-regulation of companies,” he stressed. “While voluntary codes of conduct for private contractors are welcome, they are not sufficient to ensure that States regulate and monitor the activities of the companies they contract to carry out State functions, and establish accountability mechanisms to address human rights violations,” he added.

Last month, the Group presented a draft text for a new convention on the regulation of private military and security companies to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

“The self-regulatory codes of conduct of the security industry have failed in the past 10 years to establish effective accountability,” said Mr. Nikitin. “In this regard, we hope that all States, including the United States where many private military and security companies are established, will seriously consider participating in the process initiated by the Human Rights Council aimed at setting up an international regulatory framework for private military and security companies.”

The Working Group was established in 2005 and comprises five independent experts serving in their personal capacities. They are: Alexander Nikitin, Amada Benavides de Pérez, José Luis Gómez del Prado, Najat al-Hajjaji and Faiza Patel.

 

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