The United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries [official website] released a report [text, PDF] on Tuesday claiming that the increase in the use of private military and security companies raises human rights challenges and should be regulated internationally. Citing the recent use of Libyan civilians to repress the peaceful demonstrations [UN News Centre report] of their own population, the group concluded that mercenaries also pose a threat [news release] to citizens' right of self-determination. The group estimates that the private industry garners anywhere between $20 billion to $100 billion per year worldwide from contracts and grants. Faiza Patel [NYU profile], head of the working group, estimates that $206 billion will be spent on wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011. The report claims that because of the wide-ranging issues these informal security forces [UPI report] are employed to handle, whether related to drug eradication or post-conflict reconstruction roles, there is a need for intra-state regulations [Arizona Star report] to ensure accountability.
The UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries in July proposed [JURIST report] international legislation [UN News Centre report] to create mechanisms for prosecuting contractors and mercenaries when they violate the law. A former contractor for Blackwater [JURIST news archive], now known as Xe Services [corporate website], was sentenced [JURIST report] a month earlier to two-and-a-half years in prison for the 2009 shooting of an unarmed Afghan civilian in Kabul. Earlier in June, four former Blackwater contractors appealed the April decision to reinstate manslaughter charges against them in connection with their alleged roles in a 2007 shooting incident [JURIST reports] in Baghdad, Iraq. In April 2010, a federal grand jury indicted five former Blackwater executives [JURIST report] on charges of weapons violations and lying to investigators. In February 2010, the Iraqi government ordered 250 former Blackwater employees to leave Iraq [JURIST report] in reaction to the dismissal of charges against former Blackwater employees accused in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] in 2007. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts expired and were not renewed.