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Business Impacts on Human Rights


"It looks like everything is back to normal. The company is back in operation. And we've lost the head of our family. There’s no justice here."- Firoz Fadhil Abbas, whose brother was killed by Blackwater employees in the 2007 Nisoor Square shootings in IraqSudarasan Raghavan, Tracing the Paths of 5 Who Died in a Storm of Gunfire, WASHINGTON POST, Oct. 4, 2007, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/03/AR2007100302646.html.


In Iraq and Afghanistan, private military contractors (PMCs) continue to outnumber U.S. and other foreign military forces.HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, STATE OF AFFAIRS: THREE YEARS AFTER NISOOR SQUARE 1 (2010), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/pdf/State_Of_Affairs.pdf. In Iraq, PMCs have reportedly been involved in highly questionable uses of force, resulting in serious injury to and death of civilians.HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS AT WAR: ENDING THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY 2-3 (2008), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf. PMCs were also allegedly involved in egregious acts of mistreatmentANTHONY R. JONES AND GEORGE R. FAY, INVESTIGATION OF INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AT ABU GHRAIB 79, 82, 84, 86-87, 125, 136 (2004), available at http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/dod/fay82504rpt.pdf. CULTURE OF IMPUNITY, supra note 8, at 2-4. and sexual assaultANTHONY R. JONES AND GEORGE R. FAY, INVESTIGATION OF INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AT ABU GHRAIB 72-73, 81-82, 89. (2004), available at http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/dod/fay82504rpt.pdf. of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers.ANTHONY R. JONES AND GEORGE R. FAY, INVESTIGATION OF INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AT ABU GHRAIB 72-73, 81-82, 89. (2004), available at http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/dod/fay82504rpt.pdf; HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS AT WAR: ENDING THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY (2008), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf. In Afghanistan, PMCs have been accused of various abuses, including tortureUnited States v. Passaro, 577 F.3d 207 (4th Cir. 2009). and unlawful firings on civilians.August Cole, U.S. Contractors Fired at Kabul Car, WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 18, 2009, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124239900599924043.html. These private firms have generally operated with impunity in both countries. Few abuses have been fully investigated or prosecuted.HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS AT WAR: ENDING THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY i (2008), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf.


Unlawful Use of Force against Civilians in Iraq


According to Human Rights First, private contractors operating in Iraq have engaged in "aggressive tactics", using gunfire as warnings and firing at civilian vehicles in response to perceived threats.HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS AT WAR: ENDING THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY 6 (2008), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf. Between 2005 and 2007, employees of Blackwater Worldwide (now known as Xe) were reportedly involved in 195 incidents where shots were fired.Jenny S. Lam, Accountability for Private Military Contractors Under the Alien Tort Statute, 97 CAL. L. REV. 1459, 1462 (2009), available at http://www.californialawreview.org/assets/pdfs/97-5/Oct09_Lam.pdf. Blackwater’s reports indicate that its forces fired first in over 80% of these shootings, despite a contractual requirement that they use only defensive force.Memorandum from Majority Staff to Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Additional Information About Blackwater (Oct. 1, 2007), available at http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/20071001121609.pdf.


According to the Iraqi government, on September 16, 2007, in a well-publicized shooting at Nisoor Square in Baghdad, employees of Blackwater killed 17 and wounded 24 Iraqi civilians.HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS AT WAR: ENDING THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY 1 (2008), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf. Blackwater officials claim that the guards acted "lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack."James Glanz and Alissa J. Rubin, Blackwater Shootings ‘Murder,’ Iraq Says, N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 7, 2007, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/08/world/africa/08iht-08blackwater.7791346.html. According to US military evidence, eyewitness accounts,See, e.g., James Glanz, New Evidence that Guards Took No Fire, N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 13, 2007 (describing account of three Kurdish witnesses who were on a rooftop overlooking Nisoor Square during the attack); Soldiers Found No Evidence Gunmen Fired on Blackwater, CNN, Oct. 12, 2007, available at http://articles.cnn.com/2007-10-12/world/iraq.main_1_blackwater-guards-state-department-convoy-iraqi-national-police?_s=PM:WORLD ("The [U.S. military] report said the weapons casings found by soldiers who arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting subsided, matched only those used by U.S. military contractors"). and one Blackwater employeeFactual Proffer in Support of Guilty Plea, United States v. Ridgeway (D.C.), Nov. 18, 2008, available at http://www.justice.gov/opa/documents/us-v-ridgeway.pdf. on the scene, the contractors fired without provocation.


In February 2004, four employees of Custer Battles, an American private security company, resigned because fellow employees allegedly "terrorized civilians, shooting indiscriminately as they ran for cover, smashing into and shooting up cars."Lisa Meyers, US Contractors in Iraq Allege Abuses, NBC NEWS, February 17, 2005, cited in HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS AT WAR: ENDING THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY 5 (2008), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf. While Custer Battles has since been banned from working in Iraq, its employees continue to work in Iraq under newly formed companies.Execs from Banned Firms Still Getting Iraq, ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 12, 2005, available at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8195714/ns/business-corporate_scandals/.


Other PMCs have also been implicated in abuses. The UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries received reports that another contractor, Unity Resources Group (USG) was involved in a shoot-out with other PMCs that left two Iraqi women dead in October 2007.U.N. Working Group on the Question of the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination, Communications to and from Governments, Delivered to the 7th Session of the Human Rights Council, ¶ 33, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/7/7/Add. 1 (Jan. 9, 2008), available at http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G08/106/06/PDF/G0810606.pdf?OpenElement; See also José L. Gómez del Prado, Impact on Human Rights of Private and Military Security Companies’ Activities, Peace and Collaborative Development Network October 20, 2008, available at http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/forum/topics/780588:Topic:79392.


Private military contractors in Iraq have also "used forbidden arms or experimental ammunition prohibited by international law," according to reports submitted to the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries.U.N. Working Group on the Question of the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination, Report of the Working Group on the Question of the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination Delivered to the 7th Session of the Human Rights Council,¶22, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/7/7 (Feb. 13, 2008), available at http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/7/7&Lang=E. According to Jose L. Gómez del Prado, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group, private security guards have also detained Iraqis without authorization.José L. Gómez del Prado, Impact on Human Rights of Private and Military Security Companies’ Activities, Peace and Collaborative Development Network October 20, 2008, available at http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/forum/topics/780588:Topic:79392.


Torture at Abu Ghraib and other Detention Centers in Iraq


According to the U.S. military’s own investigations, private military contractors played a central role in the egregious human rights abuses committed against detainees at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-controlled detention facilities in Iraq.ANTHONY R. JONES AND GEORGE R. FAY, INVESTIGATION OF INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AT ABU GHRAIB (2004), available at http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/dod/fay82504rpt.pdf. According to one military investigation, private contractors were involved in 10 out of 44 separate instances of alleged detainee abuse.HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS AT WAR: ENDING THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY 52 (2008), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf. As reported by Human Rights First, abuses by private contract interrogators at Abu Ghraib included "the use of stress positions; dropping a detainee on the ground; using a MP [military police] to beat and intimidate a detainee; sexual humiliation; and numerous incidents involving dogs."HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS AT WAR: ENDING THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY 52 (2008), available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf. In November 2003, a civilian interpreter working for the firm Titan reportedly raped a boy at Abu Ghraib.CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND GLOBAL JUSTICE ET AL, BY THE NUMBERS: FINDINGS OF THE DETAINEE ABUSE AND ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT 19 (2006), available at http://www.chrgj.org/docs/By_The_Numbers.pdf. According to publicly available information, victims of abuse by CACI International were allegedly, "subjected to electric shocks, sexual assault . . . mock executions, stress positions, broken bones, deprivation of oxygen, food and water as [well as] other brutal and dehumanizing acts of torture."Center for Constitutional Rights, Fact Sheet: Accountability for Torture by Private Military Contractors: The Cases against Titan/L-3 and CACI, http://ccrjustice.org/files/Final%202010%20contractor%20factsheet.pdf (last visited Nov. 6, 2010). Despite the severity and prevalence of these abuses, no contractor has been charged with or convicted of any crime.Center for Constitutional Rights, Fact Sheet: Accountability for Torture by Private Military Contractors: The Cases against Titan/L-3 and CACI, http://ccrjustice.org/files/Final%202010%20contractor%20factsheet.pdf (last visited Nov. 6, 2010).


Severe Violence in Afghanistan


Private military contractors operating in Afghanistan have been accused of serious human rights violations. In 2003, a CIA contractor allegedly subjected Abdul Wali, an Afghan national who had voluntarily come in for questioning, to a two-day interrogation, "repeatedly throwing Wali to the ground, striking him open handed, hitting him on the arms and legs with a heavy, Maglite-type flashlight measuring over a foot long, and, while wearing combat boots, kicking Wali in the groin with enough force to lift him off the ground."United States v. Passaro, 577 F.3d 207, 211 (4th Cir. 2009). Three days after being taken into custody, Wali died.United States v. Passaro, 577 F.3d 207, 212 (4th Cir. 2009). In May 2009, in another incident, off-duty contractors of Paravant, a subsidiary of Blackwater Worldwide, reportedly fired upon a civilian vehicle in Kabul while under the influence of alcohol, wounding at least two civilians.August Cole, U.S. Contractors Fired at Kabul Car, WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 18, 2009, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124239900599924043.html. Private security guards employed by a private military contractor are also alleged to be responsible for the murder of a Kandahar police chief and five other policemen in June 2009.Richard A. Oppel, Afghanistan Security Guards are Blamed in a Gun Battle That Killed a Police Chief, N.Y. TIMES, June 30, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/world/asia/30afghan.html.


In August 2010, President Hamid Karzai issued a presidential decree ordering all private security firms operating in the country to disband by the end of the year, with an exception that would allow embassies and international organizations to use private security within their compounds.Lama Hasan, President Karzai Orders Foreign Security Out, ABC NEWS, August 17, 2010, available at http://abcnews.go.com/International/president-karzai-orders-foreign-security-afghanistan/story?id=11418609. By October 2010, the Afghan government announced that it had taken steps to dissolve eight companies’ Afghanistan operations, including Xe (formerly Blackwater Worldwide).8 Private Security Firms Banned in Afghanistan, CNN INT’L, October 3, 2010, available at http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/10/03/afghanistan.banned.firms/?hpt=T2. However, by December, after non-profit organizations and foreign companies that rely on private security for protection in the region retaliated by withdrawing financing for development projects, Karzai stepped back from his original timeline.Renata Gianini and Rens de Graaff, Afghanistan Security: The Private Security Companies Dilemma in Afghanistan, RELIEF WEB, Dec. 20, 2010, http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWFiles2010.nsf/FilesByRWDocUnidFilename/VDUX-8CEMWB-full_report.pdf/$File/full_report.pdf (last visited Apr. 26, 2011). In March 2011, the Afghan government announced a plan to phase out private security companies over the course of a 12-month period.Ray Rivera, Afghanistan Plans Departure of Security Firms, N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 16, 2011, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/world/asia/17afghanistan.html.


Invisible Presence of PMCs in Pakistan


The presence of PMCs in Pakistan has been widely denied by official statements of the U.S. and Pakistani governments.Press Release, Embassy of the United States (Islamabad, Pakistan), Correction for the Record: Secretary Gates Denies Blackwater Contracts in Pakistan (Jan. 23, 2010), http://islamabad.usembassy.gov/pr-10012301.html; Muhammad Arshad, Blackwater not in Pakistan, NA Body Told, PAKISTAN OBSERVER, Oct. 18, 2010, available at http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=57609. Local and international media, however, have relied on individual (anonymous) sources within the governments, statements by PMCs, and independent investigation to allege U.S. use of PMCs within Pakistan.See, e.g. , Jane Perlez, U.S. Push to Expand in Pakistan Meets Resistance, N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 5, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/world/asia/06islamabad.html; Jeremy Scahill, The Secret US War in Pakistan, THE NATION, Nov. 23, 2009, available at http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-us-war-pakistan; Declan Walsch and Ewen MacAskill, Blackwater Operating at CIA Pakistan Base, Ex-official Says, THE GUARDIAN, Dec. 11, 2009, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/11/blackwater-in-cia-pakistan-base; James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones, N.Y. TIMES, Aug. 20, 2009, available at .


In 2009, the New York Times reported that U.S. aid to Pakistan was conditioned on the ability of PMCs to operate within the nation and that DynCorp provide security for U.S. diplomats in Islamabad.Jane Perlez, U.S. Push to Expand in Pakistan Meets Resistance, N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 5, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/world/asia/06islamabad.html. In addition, the New York Times and The Nation have written about Blackwater’s involvement in the use or assembly or missiles, bombs and drone strikes in Pakistan. Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, also referred to Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan in interviews with Vanity Fair, in an audiotape obtained by The Nation, and in a speech at the University of Michigan.Jeremy Scahill, The Secret US War in Pakistan, THE NATION, Nov. 23, 2009, available at http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-us-war-pakistan; Shahid Siddiqi, How Active Is Blackwater in Pakistan? , FOREIGN POLICY JOURNAL, Aug. 30, 2010, available at http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/08/30/how-active-is-blackwater-in-pakistan/. In early 2010, the most explicit admission of PMC activity in Pakistan came from the U.S. government when it expressed concern about Michael Furlong’s, a U.S. Department of Defense official, use of contractors to spy on, identify, and possibly kill militants.Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants, N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 15, 2010, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/world/asia/15contractors.html. According to the New York Times, "[I]t is still murky whether Mr. Furlong had approval from top commanders or whether he might have been running a rogue operation."Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants, N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 15, 2010, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/world/asia/15contractors.html.


Reporting on the human rights implications of PMC operations in Pakistan is even more sparse. According to the New York Times, the U.S. embassy received a series of complaints from residents of Islamabad alleging that the residents were "‘roughed up’ by hefty, plainclothes American men bearing weapons, presumably from DynCorp."Jane Perlez, U.S. Push to Expand in Pakistan Meets Resistance, N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 5, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/world/asia/06islamabad.html. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Philip Alston, expressed concern about PMCs carrying out military tasks, when we "don’t know what sort of training they’re given" and "what sort of rules they operate by".Interview by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, of Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings (Oct. 28, 2009). Transcript and video available at http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/28/un_special_rapporteur_on_extrajudicial_killings. Without official confirmation of PMC presence in Pakistan, it is difficult to identify and urge accountability for any human rights abuses or violations of international law related to PMC activity in Pakistan.



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