A US military contractor accused of human rights violations has won a multi-million-dollar contract to police post-Saddam Iraq, The Observer can reveal.
DynCorp, which has donated more than £100,000 to the Republican Party, began recruiting for a private police force in Iraq last week on behalf of the US State Department.
The awarding of such a sensitive contract to DynCorp has caused consternation in some circles over the company's policing record. A British employment tribunal recently forced DynCorp to pay £110,000 in compensation to a UN police officer it unfairly sacked in Bosnia for whistleblowing on DynCorp colleagues involved in an illegal sex ring.
An Observer reporter who contacted the firm's US headquarters purporting to be a potential police recruit for Iraq was told it was hoping to 'get people on the ground in two to four weeks'. The recruiter told the reporter he could expect a salary of $80,000plus 'hazard bonuses'. He was offered a contract of between three months and a year and told he did not need to be able to speak Arabic. He had to be a US citizen who had served as a police officer in America, and when the reporter said he had worked in Texas for a number of years he was told he sounded 'ideal'.
Despite DynCorp's demands for US citizens only, it is offering the private contracts through its British office in Aldershot.
Former Labour Defense Minister Peter Kilfoyle said last night: 'I find it difficult to believe that, at a time when bringing law and order to Iraq needs to be handled with delicacy and sensitivity, a private American firm like DynCorp is entrusted with this job.'
DynCorp's advert, posted on a US website and headed 'Iraq mission', stated that it was acting on behalf of the US Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. It was seeking 'individuals with appropriate experience and expertise to participate in an international effort to re-establish police, justice and prison functions in post-conflict Iraq'.
The company is looking for active duty or recently retired policemen and prison guards and 'experienced judicial experts'.
While the US has promised help in bringing law and order to Iraq, the involvement of DynCorp has caused concern as it has been involved in a series of recent high-profile scandals involving personnel in sensitive missions overseas.
DynCorp personnel contracted to the United Nations police service in Bosnia were implicated in buying and selling prostitutes, including a girl as young as 12. Several DynCorp employees were also accused of videotaping the rape of one of the women.
When Dyncorp employee Kathy Bolkovac blew the whistle on the sex ring she was dismissed by the company for drawing attention to their misbehavior, according to the ruling of a British employment tribunal in November.
DynCorp has also been heavily criticized over its involvement in Plan Colombia, instigated by Bill Clinton, that involves spraying vast quantities of herbicides over Colombia to kill the cocaine crop.
A group of Ecuadorean peasants have filed a class action against the company alleging that herbicides spread by DynCorp in Colombia were drifting across the border, killing legitimate crops, causing illness, and killing children. The company denies the charges.
DynCorp, which has its headquarters in Reston, Virginia, employs almost 25,000 staff, many of them former US military personnel. The Observer was unable to reach DynCorp for comment.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003