War on Want is an anti-poverty charity based in London, England, which highlights the needs of poverty-stricken areas around the world, lobbying governments and international agencies to tackle problems, as well as raising public awareness of the concerns of developing nations while supporting organisations throughout the third world. War on Want tends to focus on the root causes of poverty rather than its effects, and places importance on enabling people in poverty to solve their own problems.
For most people war means pain, suffering and poverty. Yet not everyone is made poorer by war. For some companies, war means profit. Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) are making a killing out of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in conflicts around the globe.
PMSCs are now the second largest occupying force in Iraq behind the US. Yet they remain unregulated and unaccountable, leaving open the potential for human rights violations.
These companies reap huge profits from war. Iraqi contracts boosted the annual revenue of British PMSCs alone from £320 million in 2003 to more than £1.8 billion in 2004. In the same year income for the private military and security industry worldwide reached $100 billion.
There are hundreds of reports of human rights abuses by PMSC employees, including incidents of contractors firing indiscriminately at civilians. In one incident in September 2007, 17 Iraqi civilians were killed by American PMSC Blackwater. Just weeks later employees of British security company Erinys International opened fire on a taxi near Kirkuk in Iraq, wounding three civilians, including two women.
A 'trophy video' shows employees of British company Aegis Defence Services randomly shooting automatic weapons at civilian cars in Baghdad. Aegis coordinates the operations of all PMSCs working in Iraq. At Abu Ghraib prison, employees of two PMSCs were implicated in the abuse-of-prisoners scandal including allegedly raping a male juvenile detainee and directing the use of dogs and other forms of torture during interrogations.
Despite these cases and many more, no private military contractor has been prosecuted for actions in Iraq. The pattern is similar in conflicts around the world.
There is a pressing need for the UK government to take forward legislation that will regulate these companies and hold them to account.
War on Want resources on PMSCs
- Download Corporate Mercenaries: War on Want's report on PMSCs - Corporate Mercenaries: The threat of private military and security companies. Download here
- Mercenary Trophy Videos: Download videos of Aegis and Blackwater mercenaries at work in Iraq. Download here
- UK Government response: Official response from UK Government to the email action War on Want supporters sent to the Foreign Secretary. Download here
- Read Erinys' response to War on Want's reports. Download here
Action that the campaign is calling for
War on Want calls on the UK government to move towards legislation to control the PMSC sector as an urgent priority. Self-regulation by the industry is not an option. Legislation must outlaw PMSC involvement in all forms of direct combat and combat support, as understood in their widest possible senses.
Letter action: Send a letter to your Member of Parliament urging them to call on the Foreign Secretary to introduce legislation regulating private military and security companies as a matter of urgency. You can fin the letter here
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