If You Can't Quit Them, Then Regulate Military Contractors

By Lillian Tan, Corporate Action Network Intern

Their operations are vast and war zone contractors are likely here to stay, as Suzanne Simons writes in her CNN International article. Her article is a comprehensive piece that places emphasis on one of the more salient issues regarding private military and security companies (PMSCs) or contractors: lack of regulation, oversight, and accountability. The PMSC industry has grown rapidly since the war on terror and continues to play an integral role in the conflict in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, but the US government, as reported by the CWC in its Interim Report, lacks resources to manage the industry that it has come to depend on like a crutch.

Since 2001, Congress has appropriated about $830 billion to fund U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over that period, America’s reliance on contractors has grown to unprecedented proportions to support logistics, security, and reconstruction efforts related to those operations. More than 240,000 contractor employees—about 80 percent of them foreign nationals—now work in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting the Department of Defense. Additional contractor employees support the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

-Executive Summary, June 2009 Interim Report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC)

The result from the combination of a growing military industry and weak government regulation and oversight is a culture of impunity and lack of accountability for the many human rights abuses committed by PMSCs. Yes, five Blackwater guards will be tried in February 2010 for opening fire and killing civilians in Nisour Square and yes, a private civil lawsuit was filed against Blackwater contractor Andrew J. Moonen for killing one of the Iraqi Vice President’s bodyguards in Baghdad’s green zone. However, let us also keep in mind not only how long it took for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to act in the first case, but also the fact that numerous cases of detainee abuse committed by PMSC personnel have gone unprosecuted. In February 2008, Amnesty found out through Senator Durbin’s inquiry to the DOJ that 24 cases of detainee abuse were transferred to the Eastern District of Virginia; 22 of the 24 were dismissed and 2 are pending. Our efforts to find out why these cases were dismissed or unresolved were fruitless.

The industry cannot be expected to regulate itself and a government that is increasingly outsourcing its operations needs to ensure that it has the mechanisms to regulate PMSCs’ activities and hold the companies accountable for their actions (and not reward them with more contracts). Doug Brooks of the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) stated that PMSCs are here to stay and that it’s about time we made it work but after the recent completion of a twelfth version of IPOA’s Code of Conduct, the trade association still has not made it work. Essentially, the Code is ineffectual. For starters, there are no guidelines detailing what compliance with its standards entails; companies do not have to show that they are operationalizing the Code to IPOA or any third-party monitor; and there are no requirements for public reporting on company efforts to adhere to the Code.

This is why the U.S. government will have to move beyond the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) to create a new body of legislation that will hold all U.S. government contractors working overseas accountable – irrespective of which government agency employs them – if they commit human rights violations.

For more information on PMSCs, visit www.aiusa.org/pmscs and read CorpWatch’s investigative report on intelligence contracting Outsourcing Intelligence in Iraq.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

19 thoughts on “If You Can't Quit Them, Then Regulate Military Contractors

  1. Ms. Tan,

    Thanks for the mention in the blog, even if a wee bit critically!

    Are you based in DC? Why not come by IPOA with your concerns and we'll see what we can do to better address them.

    We have always included and very much valued the insights of the humanitarian community. This is especially true of Amnesty International which has participated and actively contributed in many of our Code of Conduct workshops in the past. I'm sure you recognize that many of Amnesty's suggestions have already been incorporated over the past few years.

    Let's talk this week and move forward on this.

    Regards,

    Doug Brooks
    President
    IPOA

  2. Ms. Tan,

    Thanks for the mention in the blog, even if a wee bit critically!

    Are you based in DC? Why not come by IPOA with your concerns and we’ll see what we can do to better address them.

    We have always included and very much valued the insights of the humanitarian community. This is especially true of Amnesty International which has participated and actively contributed in many of our Code of Conduct workshops in the past. I’m sure you recognize that many of Amnesty’s suggestions have already been incorporated over the past few years.

    Let’s talk this week and move forward on this.

    Regards,

    Doug Brooks
    President
    IPOA

  3. "International Peace Operations Association" !! Can't believe these eyes !!

    What a lovely name for Mercenaries for Rent for the Empire's Last Breath .

    The Haudeenosaunee teacher John Mohawk named it better —

    "If you are in another people's land [ armed & in force ],
    & you eat different,
    you dress different,
    you TALK different,
    I call it colonialism.
    What do you call it ?"

    i call it imperialism.

    i call it invasion by the WHITE MAN.

    Ask the Pashtuns who THEY agree with.

  4. “International Peace Operations Association” !! Can’t believe these eyes !!

    What a lovely name for Mercenaries for Rent for the Empire’s Last Breath .

    The Haudeenosaunee teacher John Mohawk named it better –

    “If you are in another people’s land [ armed & in force ],
    & you eat different,
    you dress different,
    you TALK different,
    I call it colonialism.
    What do you call it ?”

    i call it imperialism.

    i call it invasion by the WHITE MAN.

    Ask the Pashtuns who THEY agree with.

  5. Dear Mr. Brooks,

    For some time now, AIUSA has sought to ensure effective mechanisms of oversight and accountability for private military and security companies. While some positive steps have been taken, the legal and regulatory framework remains patchy. Like you, we agree that under these circumstances the industry has a contribution to make in ensuring that companies adhere to the highest ethical standards and respect human rights in their operations. Of course, industry self-regulation can not substitute for the government’s primary regulatory responsibility, but it can serve as a useful complement.

    IPOA has taken a step towards pursuing industry self-regulation by releasing a revised twelfth version of its Code of Conduct, which all member companies agree to uphold. Unfortunately, after three years of constructively engaging with IPOA to identify ways to strengthen Code standards, implementation protocols, and oversight, enforcement, and reporting mechanisms, AIUSA feels that the Code has not developed to a point where clients can be assured that companies are actually compliant with Code standards. The Code remains an aspirational set of values.

    Efforts at industry standard setting and self-policing through codes have been underway for over three decades. One lesson learned from these efforts is that simply listing standards with no stipulations for how they are to be integrated into business operations, no means of measuring adherence to standards, no outlet for independent adjudication of code breaches, and no reporting to ensure relevant stakeholders that standards are being met, is mere window dressing.

    For a more detailed discussion of the Code's strengths and weaknesses, see our analysis of the twelfth version of the IPOA Code: http://www.amnestyusa.org/military-contractors/ai

    We hope that IPOA will consider taking its code beyond aspiration into the realm of committed implementation and enforcement. Amnesty looks forward to seeing transparent, public reports about such efforts.

    Best,
    Lillian Tan, Corporate Action Network Intern

  6. Dear Mr. Brooks,

    For some time now, AIUSA has sought to ensure effective mechanisms of oversight and accountability for private military and security companies. While some positive steps have been taken, the legal and regulatory framework remains patchy. Like you, we agree that under these circumstances the industry has a contribution to make in ensuring that companies adhere to the highest ethical standards and respect human rights in their operations. Of course, industry self-regulation can not substitute for the government’s primary regulatory responsibility, but it can serve as a useful complement.

    IPOA has taken a step towards pursuing industry self-regulation by releasing a revised twelfth version of its Code of Conduct, which all member companies agree to uphold. Unfortunately, after three years of constructively engaging with IPOA to identify ways to strengthen Code standards, implementation protocols, and oversight, enforcement, and reporting mechanisms, AIUSA feels that the Code has not developed to a point where clients can be assured that companies are actually compliant with Code standards. The Code remains an aspirational set of values.

    Efforts at industry standard setting and self-policing through codes have been underway for over three decades. One lesson learned from these efforts is that simply listing standards with no stipulations for how they are to be integrated into business operations, no means of measuring adherence to standards, no outlet for independent adjudication of code breaches, and no reporting to ensure relevant stakeholders that standards are being met, is mere window dressing.

    For a more detailed discussion of the Code's strengths and weaknesses, see our analysis of the twelfth version of the IPOA Code: http://www.amnestyusa.org/military-contractors/ai

    We hope that IPOA will consider taking its code beyond aspiration into the realm of committed implementation and enforcement. Amnesty looks forward to seeing transparent, public reports about such efforts.

    Best,
    Lillian Tan, Corporate Action Network Intern

  7. Dear Mr. Brooks,

    For some time now, AIUSA has sought to ensure effective mechanisms of oversight and accountability for private military and security companies. While some positive steps have been taken, the legal and regulatory framework remains patchy. Like you, we agree that under these circumstances the industry has a contribution to make in ensuring that companies adhere to the highest ethical standards and respect human rights in their operations. Of course, industry self-regulation can not substitute for the government’s primary regulatory responsibility, but it can serve as a useful complement.

    IPOA has taken a step towards pursuing industry self-regulation by releasing a revised twelfth version of its Code of Conduct, which all member companies agree to uphold. Unfortunately, after three years of constructively engaging with IPOA to identify ways to strengthen Code standards, implementation protocols, and oversight, enforcement, and reporting mechanisms, AIUSA feels that the Code has not developed to a point where clients can be assured that companies are actually compliant with Code standards. The Code remains an aspirational set of values.

    Efforts at industry standard setting and self-policing through codes have been underway for over three decades. One lesson learned from these efforts is that simply listing standards with no stipulations for how they are to be integrated into business operations, no means of measuring adherence to standards, no outlet for independent adjudication of code breaches, and no reporting to ensure relevant stakeholders that standards are being met, is mere window dressing.

    For a more detailed discussion of the Code's strengths and weaknesses, see our analysis of the twelfth version of the IPOA Code: http://www.amnestyusa.org/military-contractors/ai

    We hope that IPOA will consider taking its code beyond aspiration into the realm of committed implementation and enforcement. Amnesty looks forward to seeing transparent, public reports about such efforts.

    Best,
    Lillian Tan, Corporate Action Network Intern

  8. Ms. Tan,

    Brilliant! Much appreciated.

    You have obviously gone to a great deal of effort. I will gladly share this with our Standards Committee and we'll see what we can realistically implement at this point, and what we can add to the next version, due in about 18 months. As you know, Version 12 was ratified back in February of this year. We also have an annual "Standards Simulation" where we invite NGOs, academics and humanitarian experts to critique and help enhance the effectiveness of our complaints process.

    This is the first time we've received this document on our Version 12 – although we are familiar with elements which were discussed in detail at our Code of Conduct Convention in September of last year during our revision process (the Code of Conduct is on our website in multiple languages).

    We are keen to make our Code as effective as we can from a nonprofit trade association perspective. As you know IPOA was founded in April 2001 to ensure that UN peacekeeping had all the support services necessary to make peacekeeping operations successful and so that companies in the industry operate to the professional and ethical levels the international community should demand.

    In any case, our last two Amnesty contacts on this issue have moved on to new vocations. If you are going to be AI’s stability operations person I would be grateful if you could pass on your contact information for future consultations on these issues.

    Best regards,
    Doug

    President, IPOA

  9. Dear Mr. Brooks,

    For some time now, AIUSA has sought to ensure effective mechanisms of oversight and accountability for private military and security companies. While some positive steps have been taken, the legal and regulatory framework remains patchy. Like you, we agree that under these circumstances the industry has a contribution to make in ensuring that companies adhere to the highest ethical standards and respect human rights in their operations. Of course, industry self-regulation can not substitute for the government’s primary regulatory responsibility, but it can serve as a useful complement.

    IPOA has taken a step towards pursuing industry self-regulation by releasing a revised twelfth version of its Code of Conduct, which all member companies agree to uphold. Unfortunately, after three years of constructively engaging with IPOA to identify ways to strengthen Code standards, implementation protocols, and oversight, enforcement, and reporting mechanisms, AIUSA feels that the Code has not developed to a point where clients can be assured that companies are actually compliant with Code standards. The Code remains an aspirational set of values.

    Efforts at industry standard setting and self-policing through codes have been underway for over three decades. One lesson learned from these efforts is that simply listing standards with no stipulations for how they are to be integrated into business operations, no means of measuring adherence to standards, no outlet for independent adjudication of code breaches, and no reporting to ensure relevant stakeholders that standards are being met, is mere window dressing.

    For a more detailed discussion of the Code’s strengths and weaknesses, see our analysis of the twelfth version of the IPOA Code:
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/military-contractors/aiusa-analysis-of-ipoa-code-of-conduct-v-12/page.do?id=1520016

    We hope that IPOA will consider taking its code beyond aspiration into the realm of committed implementation and enforcement. Amnesty looks forward to seeing transparent, public reports about such efforts.

    Best,
    Lillian Tan, Corporate Action Network Intern

  10. Ms. Tan,

    Brilliant! Much appreciated.

    You have obviously gone to a great deal of effort. I will gladly share this with our Standards Committee and we’ll see what we can realistically implement at this point, and what we can add to the next version, due in about 18 months. As you know, Version 12 was ratified back in February of this year. We also have an annual “Standards Simulation” where we invite NGOs, academics and humanitarian experts to critique and help enhance the effectiveness of our complaints process.

    This is the first time we’ve received this document on our Version 12 – although we are familiar with elements which were discussed in detail at our Code of Conduct Convention in September of last year during our revision process (the Code of Conduct is on our website in multiple languages).

    We are keen to make our Code as effective as we can from a nonprofit trade association perspective. As you know IPOA was founded in April 2001 to ensure that UN peacekeeping had all the support services necessary to make peacekeeping operations successful and so that companies in the industry operate to the professional and ethical levels the international community should demand.

    In any case, our last two Amnesty contacts on this issue have moved on to new vocations. If you are going to be AI’s stability operations person I would be grateful if you could pass on your contact information for future consultations on these issues.

    Best regards,
    Doug

    President, IPOA

  11. Please ignore my post yesterday. Brought ZERO to the debate and was just a silly pointless dig. Thank you,

  12. Please ignore my post yesterday. Brought ZERO to the debate and was just a silly pointless dig. Thank you,

  13. Ms. Tan,

    I've tried to contact you through your office, but with no response and apparently you are not listed in their directory. Could you contact me directly at the IPOA offices?

    Regards,

    doug

    Doug Brooks
    IPOA President

  14. Ms. Tan,

    I’ve tried to contact you through your office, but with no response and apparently you are not listed in their directory. Could you contact me directly at the IPOA offices?

    Regards,

    doug

    Doug Brooks
    IPOA President

  15. Pingback: A real chance for accountability for private security contractors | Human Rights Now - Amnesty International USA Blog