Miliband's approval of mercenaries will increase human rights abuses

By agency reporter
April 25, 2009

David Miliband, the British Froeign Secretary, has been attacked for backing the use of mercenary troops, which the charity War on Want says will increase the risk of human rights abuse.

The accusation comes as the UK government hailed the industry’s “positive and legitimate role” in spite of widespread reports of human rights abuse by private military companies.

Launching a public consultation over regulating private military firms, Miliband described the industry as “essential” and recommended self-regulation only, despite calls for rigorous controls by MPs and charities such as War on Want.

According to War on Want, self-regulation could leave civilians in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq exposed to further abuse by mercenaries working for British firms.

It says that the planned withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq increases the need for strict regulation of mercenaries who will still work there and in other war zones.

War on Want points to hundreds of incidents of human rights abuse which have involved private military companies.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: “Miliband is giving a green light to the use of mercenaries in war. The human rights abuses we have seen from private military personnel cry out for proper legislation. Self-regulation is not an option.”

The government’s announcement comes 18 months after the wounding of two Iraqi civilians by mercenaries working for the British firm Erinys International, who fired on a cab near Kirkuk.

Earlier in 2007, mercenaries working for the US private military company Blackwater, now renamed Xe, randomly shot at and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

War on Want has spearheaded the campaign for tough legislation, including a ban on mercenaries’ use in combat and combat support roles.

And British MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee have called for strict curbs on these firms, with provision for prosecution in UK courts for serious human rights abuse committed abroad.

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