A UN working group said on Thursday that Iraq should tightly regulate private security firms to prevent abuses by their employees when they stay on in the country after a scheduled U.S. military withdrawal.
While the number of incidents involving private military and security companies in Iraq has decreased in recent years, the Government should continue to regulate and monitor their activities, a group of independent United Nations human rights experts said today.
“Providing security to its people is a fundamental responsibility of the State,” noted Faiza Patel, a member of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, which just concluded a visit to the country.
“Outsourcing security creates risks for human rights and the Iraqi Government must remain vigilant and devote the necessary resources to ensure that security companies – whether international or Iraqi – are stringently regulated and that they respect the human rights of the Iraqi people.”
The recent decline in the number of incidents is attributed to several factors, including the decrease in the military-related activities of such companies in Iraq, stricter regulation by the Iraqi authorities, and United States efforts to tighten oversight of its private security contractors operating in Iraq.
“Despite this decrease in incidents, Iraq continues to grapple with the grant of legal immunity extended to private security contractors,” states a news release issued by the Group. This immunity prevented prosecutions in Iraqi courts. In addition, prosecutions in the home countries of such companies have not been successful.
The Group welcomed the fact that the 2009 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the US contains a provision removing the immunity of some private foreign security contractors in Iraq.
“It is not clear, however, whether this removal of immunity covers all contractors employed by the United States Government and whether it is fully applied in Iraqi courts,” they said.
Among its recommendations, the experts urged the Iraqi Government to prioritize the adoption of legislation regulating security companies that has been pending since 2008.
The Working Group, which reports to the UN Human Rights Council, is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities: José Luis Gómez del Prado (Chair-Rapporteur, Spain), Faiza Patel (Pakistan), Alexander Nikitin (Russia), Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia) and Najat al-Hajjaji (Libya).
(Sources: Reuters, United Nations)