As the US plans to replace its troops with private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, more concerns are being raised about the accountability of the mercenaries, who appear to operate with impunity, given the difficulty in bringing them to account.
The private security companies are operating in a “jurisdictional black box” and thus totally lack accountability and transparency, says Derrick Crowe, a political director at Brave New Foundation.
“Not only are these contractors not accountable on the international law level, they are also not being held accountable inside the United States,” he warns.
It’s much easier from a political point of view to deploy contractors because they are not military and you don’t have that kind of embarrassment for their actions as with regular troops, Crowe notes.
“Since they are not as accountable as the US forces to the US government and the American people, they are able to get away with a lot more. So the president tends to want to use them.”
According to Crowe it damages US security and what it was trying to achieve in these countries.
The local populations in Iraq or Afghanistan get enraged when violence is done by the mercenaries and there is nobody accountable for it, Crowe explains.
“It absolutely enrages people – and it should. It should enrage people both in the countries where it happens and it should enrage people here in the United States, whose taxes are paying for it.”
It is hard to prosecute such companies as they operate in a very shady area of jurisdiction. Not being troops, they do not follow the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Crowe underlines.
Human rights lawyer Paul Wolf, who represents the claims of victims of crimes allegedly committed by the contractors, notices that these companies are set up in countries where it is hard to sue them.
“Most of the private security companies operating in Iraq and Afghanistan are incorporated in places like Singapore or the United Arab Emirates. They are set up there specifically to be very difficult to sue. So the US government is not just trying to outsource the dirty work that they can be directly blamed for, but they are deliberately doing business with companies that are not subject to courts in any country of the world,” explains Wolf.
“Companies are set up in UAE because it’s a good place to launder money, it’s a good place to do any kind of criminal activity,” he adds.