Private Security Contractors at War
"These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force…. They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath."Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst, deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, July 2005.
This report examines the dramatic and expanded use by the United States of private security contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and the abject failure of the U.S. government to control their actions or hold them criminally responsible for acts of excessive violence and abuse. As the ranks of private security contractors have grown and the number of serious incidents has increased, the U.S. government has failed to establish a workable accountability mechanism. In Iraq in particular the interplay between private security contractors, international military forces and local populations has exposed severe problems. But these issues are not unique to Iraq, and they will continue after Iraq.
The failure to establish a meaningful system of accountability for these contractors has undermined U.S. national security interests. To address this situation, Human Rights First proposes the vigorous enforcement of laws already in force today that provide a solid foundation for prosecuting violent crime involving contractors. We also propose that the federal government provide the necessary resources and properly prioritize law enforcement involving the contractor community. This will require vigorous and timely criminal investigations in the field and timely prosecution in the criminal courts. Military criminal investigations and courts-martial provide a solid model both in terms of determining necessary resources and the need for rapid investigation of these incidents. The Justice Department should work collaboratively with the military, benefiting from the latter's expertise and resources.
In the second chapter of this report Human Rights First examines the patterns of private security contractor operations and the civilian casualties linked to them. The most recurrent violations involve the use of lethal force against civilians in what the private security contractors call "convoy protection." Convoys often speed down the wrong side of the road, use gunfire to warn off civilians, and routinely fire on civilian vehicles in response to perceived threats. Although some incidents involving the questionable use of force by contractors against civilians and other alleged contractor abuse have been reported in the press or through official channels, very few have been investigated and almost none have been prosecuted.
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And if you haven't already done so please join others who are concerned about the use of Blackwater and other mercenaries groups and sign the petition asking Congress to demand that the Department of Defense and the State Dept. fire Blackwater.