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US mercenary business booms, as expert warns UN over ‘dogs of war’ activity

Expert on private military and security business tells UN the activity remains a threat, not only to security but also to human rights and the rights of people to self-determination.

UNITED NATIONS // The private military and security business is growing by 7.4 per cent a year and on track to become a US$244 billion (Dh896bn) global industry by 2016, the UN’s expert on mercenaries reported.

The United States is the biggest single spender on private security.

While most of that business is not illegal, and ranges from private security guards and prison guards to contractors protecting UN missions, independent UN expert Anton Katz told the UN General Assembly’s committee dealing with humanitarian affairs that there are still vestiges of shadowy “dogs of war” activity.

“Recent events in several parts of the world clearly demonstrate that mercenaries remain a threat not only to security but also to human rights and the right of peoples to self-determination. We continue to call on states to cooperate in eliminating this phenomenon,” Mr Katz said.

His report to the UN committee cited alleged mercenaries, some from Eastern Europe and Africa, brought in by Libyan dictator Muammar Qadaffi in 2011 to try to crush the uprising there who are languishing in detention. About 7,000 to 8,000 former combatants are still detained in Libya, and UN experts have reported that some appear to have been tortured.

The report also drew attention to mercenary threats to Ivory Coast from the Liberian border area. In June, a court in Monrovia, Liberia, refused to dismiss a case against 19 Liberians charged with being hired and trained as mercenaries to destabilise Ivory Coast. They are charged with crimes including murder, arson, rape, and theft.

Cuba, France and Montenegro have in the last year reported cases of mercenaries being convicted in their courts, the report said.

The United States alone spends $138 billion a year on private security, much of it in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, the report said.

The Pentagon spent $44 billion in 2012 in Iraq and Afghanistan for private military and security forces, it said. The United States paid $3 billion in 2011 just for a five-year security contract on the US Embassy building in Baghdad, the report said.

As the US military presence winds down, much of the private security work is shifting to police work and base support, but the protection of oil company facilities is a new growth area, it said.

Private security on shipping off Somalia’s coast is another new market identified by the report, with over 140 companies providing armed guards in the region.

The United Nations itself is another major employer for private security, and the report of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries cautioned “there is a risk that, without proper standards and oversight, the outsourcing of security functions by the United Nations to private companies could have a negative effect on the image and effectiveness of the United Nations in the field”.

* Associated Press

Published: November 5, 2013 04:00 AM

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