Charity demands tight controls over private military and security firms

By agency reporter
July 21, 2012

The corporation which failed to deliver on its £284 million contract for Olympics security is at the centre of another storm over accusations that the British government has left private military and security companies such as G4S to police themselves.

This warning came from the charity War on Want only hours before MPs on the House of Commons home affairs select committee questioned G4S chief executive Nick Buckles over recruiting and training just 4,000 of the 13,700 guards pledged for the Games.

Four years ago, G4S bought the private military and security company (PMSC) ArmorGroup and in doing so joined the shadowy world of privatised war. PMSCs have been accused of profiting from war, conflict, and political instability at the expense of security and human rights.

The British government has already played a large role in the growth of this industry by endorsing its widespread use in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the three years 2007-2009 the industry earned £62.8 million in contracts from the UK government. Almost all of the Foreign Office's contracts have gone to ArmorGroup, now part of G4S. In June this year, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, announced 30,000 Army jobs would go amid spending cuts, citing the need to use "more systematically the skills available in the reserve and from our contractors".

Successive governments have ducked imposing tough regulation on this industry, says War on Want. The charity believes that under the light touch voluntary plans set for launch in coming months, curbs over the private military and security industry would be confined to national standards, overseen by an industry, and an international code of conduct. They conclude that "there will be no real sanction powers or democratic oversight. Such moves will not enable governments or communities to hold these companies to account."

War on Want campaigns and policy director, Ruth Tanner, said: "The G4S Olympics scandal exposes the danger of the governments blind faith in the power of the market to deliver everything from policing to war.

"Despite the ever present threat to human rights and security, successive governments have ducked imposing tough regulation on this industry. Instead the government is happy to let them police themselves. Rather than leading the way in outsourcing wars to companies like G4S, the British government must end the privatisation of war and hold these companies to account."

PMSCs work for governments and corporations in war zones around the world, providing security, as well as taking part in reconstruction, direct combat surveillance and intelligence gathering. The last decade has seen a boom in PMSCs that perform operations previously carried out by national military services.


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