U.N. Report Underscores Lack Of Accountability And Oversight For Military And Security Contractors
US Should Heed U.N. Recommendations, Says ACLU
NEW YORK - A
report examining the United States' handling of human rights violations
committed by private military and security contractors in its employ
was presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council today. The report by the
U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries concludes that, while the
U.S. has taken some measures to increase oversight of private military
and security contractors (PMSCs), greater transparency and
accountability are needed to remedy incidents of human rights
violations. The American Civil Liberties Union has long called for
private contractors who violate the law to be held accountable and for
more government transparency in the use of private contractors, and
calls on the U.S. to implement the recommendations made in the report.
"Contracting out government work that
involves the use of force and the detention of persons does not absolve
the U.S. of its obligations to uphold human rights law," said Jamil
Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The Obama
administration has committed itself to greater transparency and
accountability for universal human rights. It should investigate
thoroughly and effectively all allegations of abuse committed by
for-profit security contractors overseas and provide effective remedy
and compensation to the victims."
Last week, a federal appeals court
dismissed an ACLU lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan,
Inc. for its role in the Bush administration's extraordinary rendition
program. The ACLU filed the lawsuit in May 2007 on behalf of five men
who were kidnapped by the CIA and forcibly disappeared to U.S.-run
prisons overseas where they were tortured, charging that Jeppesen
knowingly participated in the renditions by providing flight planning
and logistical support. The Bush administration intervened in the case,
improperly asserting the state secrets privilege in an attempt to have
the lawsuit thrown out, and the Obama administration continued to claim
state secrets to block the case.
In preparation for its report, the
working group heard testimony from the ACLU on the U.S. government's
abuse of the state secrets privilege to shield PMSCs like Jeppesen from
legal accountability. The U.N. report includes a recommendation that the
U.S. stop withholding key information from the public regarding alleged
human rights violations and reduce its use of the state secrets
privilege to block legal scrutiny of unlawful practices involving PMSCs.
The report also recommends that Congress launch an investigation into
the use of private contractors to conduct rendition flights.
"The rendition program is unlawful,
and companies that helped facilitate it should be held legally
accountable. Unfortunately, the Obama administration continues to use
the state secrets privilege to block litigation by rendition survivors,"
said Dakwar. "Extraordinary rendition is not a secret – it is widely
known throughout the world, and the only place it isn't being talked
about is where it matters most – in U.S. courts. Extraordinary rendition
survivors deserve their day in court."
According to the report, the U.S.
"relies heavily on the private military and security industry in
conducting its worldwide military operations. Private military and
security companies (PMSCs) from the United States dominate this new
industry, which earns an estimated 20 billion to 100 billion dollars
annually. The overall number of contractors in 2009 amounted to 244,000.
Private forces constitute about half of the total United States force
deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq."
The U.S. government will have an
opportunity to respond to the report's findings during today's U.N.
Human Rights Council session.
The working group's report is available online at (.pdf): www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/mercenaries/docs/A-HRC-15-25-Add3_AEV.pdf
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.